Historical fantasy novel by Damian Dibben, published by Hanover Square Press in 2018.
The blurb on the inside cover: "A winter's night, Venice, 1815. A 217-year-old dog is searching for his lost master."
That was all it took to sell this book to me.
Our lead character is named Tomorrow, though we only hear him called that in the closing chapters. He is a dog, and he is, as the blurb says, over 200 years old. He has a master, an alchemist, who is even older. And his master has been kidnapped. Tomorrow, as a result, has been lurking in Venice for the last 127 years, afraid that his master will escape from captivity, come looking for him, and be unable to find him again.
Tomorrow and all the dogs encountered in this book can converse with each other intelligently, and there's every indication that Tomorrow himself has human-level intelligence, even if no one but his master realizes it. During his century in Venice, he has quietly worked to safeguard many of the dogs in the city, guiding them to food, delivering them to new, kind masters when their owners died, and more. His chief confidant/irritant/companion is the earthy, boisterous Sporco.
Tomorrow finally leaves Venice when he learns the man who originally abducted his master is another immortal who has been lurking in the city trying to find him. He suspects his master may be volunteering in a war zone to use his alchemical skills to heal wounded soldiers, so he sets off for the nearest battle to try to find him -- with ever-enthusiastic Sporco tagging along for the adventure.
We also get flashbacks to Tomorrow's past -- sometimes among the comfort and wealth of the aristocracy, sometimes in warmth and friendship of close friends, sometimes in the mud and blood of the battlefield. We see Tomorrow's earlier encounters with his master's rival. We see Tomorrow meet and lose his one true love.
Will Tomorrow find and save his master? Will his master's immortal foe be vanquished? Will Sporco finally find his perfect home, full of humans to dote on him and delicious meals to enjoy?
So how is it? My lovely people, this is such a wonderful book. If you love dogs, you'll love the book. In fact, I suspect you'll love the book even if you love cats. Humans love their animal friends, and this book, focused on a strange, special animal, was a joy to read.
Tomorrow is a great character. He's obviously much smarter than a normal, real-world dog could be and has a few other human characteristics that could be ascribed to his long life. But he's also still very, very doggy, especially in his, ahem, dogged determination and his absolutely unshakable loyalty. What other kind of animal would spend over 125 years hanging out near a Venetian cathedral just because your human told you to stay put and wait for him?
There are a lot of lovable dogs in this book, chiefly the bold, rambunctious, and fiercely steadfast Sporco, Tomorrow's long-lost love Blaise, and the haughty but heartbroken La Perla, an old dog who has outlived her mistress.
Of the humans, the most important one is Valentyne, Tomorrow's master, an all-loving pacifist who often addresses his dog as "my champion," which seems like a great thing to call a dog. There's also Vilder, formerly Valentyne's friend and now almost implacable enemy, a resentful and angry man who wants revenge because his friend was unable to save his lover. But even for a villain like Vilder, there can be redemption.
It's a beautiful book, filled with great European cities and the majestic sweep of history. It's filled with triumph and joy and love, and also intense, harrowing tragedies. And it's filled with dogs. We all love dogs, don't we?