Discussion Guide: The Book of Dead Days

1. Boy and Willow are accused of murder. Why does Valerian save both of them? Is it only because he wants more information that they might have, or is there another, deeper reason?

2. In the beginning, Willow and Boy are very different from one another: Willow is strong-willed and brave, while Boy often cowers. How do they grow as
characters throughout the book? How do they change and influence one another?

3. Boy is told many different stories in the book about his own identity: Valerian tries to convince him that he is just a vessel to be used and Kepler tells him that he is Valerian’s son. At the end of the novel, Boy’s identity is still a mystery. Where do you think Boy came from?

4. The narrator touches on Boy’s life before Valerian found him throughout the novel. “The thought of being alone in the City at night worried him. It brought back memories of things he had half forgotten, of all the years he had lived alone on the streets.” (p. 81) Why is he so dependent on Valerian when it is obvious that he can survive on his own? Does Valerian hold some sort of power over him, or is there some deeper emotion involved?

5. What is The Book of Dead Days that is referred to in the title?

6. The novel explores many things that were considered magic at that time. How much of the book can be interpreted as magic and how much has a scientific explanation?

7. Valerian treats Boy and Willow in very different ways. Why do you think this is? Why does Boy become jealous of Willow?

8. How does Valerian manage to trick The Master into thinking that the animals that he is trying to create are truly alive?

9. When does Boy lose faith in Valerian? At what point does he stop seeing him as a powerful magician? Does he ever completely abandon him?

10. At one point, Valerian “put a hand out to Boy’s cheek for a moment, then seemed to remember himself and instantly pulled it back. It happened so fast that Boy wondered if he’d imagined it.” (p. 199) How would you explain Valerian's fleeting affection for Boy?