A bawdy, kicky little fantasy.
This is another "boy meets stranger, sells his soul to Satan (kind of), and then gets away with his soul *and* the girl" story.
It's almost like a parody: a dirty, bawdy, naughty parody of a fairy tale.
The narrator in the story is a hypochondriac British nobleman who escapes his family & England and is in Italy. He's obsessed with gypsies and after hearing a story about gypsies from a traveller, he decides to write down the story. He then starts to tell the story to his servant. The main story is broken away from several times as nobleman and servant go off on different tangents.
The story being told is about a physically warped man named Godfrey who meets a magician (a demon, actually) and sells his soul to look like a gorgeous Gypsy man with a gorgeous Gypsy voice. We find out that this demon actually stole the looks and voice from Godfrey and then sold it back to him for his soul later. Godfrey does this all to try to win the love of his adopted father's daughter. The downside is that every time she looks at Godfrey, he turns back into a his former twisted visage, unable to speak coherently. The tale has the father dying in a great sea storm, the father's half-brother as a greedy, witless man, a dispicable suiter for Godfrey's love, a wicked demon-ness, and a bevy of servants.
Framing (and interrupting) this novel is also the story of the nobleman telling it, his life in Tuscany, the treatments he endures, his half-wit servant Antonio and Napoleon as the boogeyman that the nobleman fears above all else.
As Godfrey conquers the demon's attempts to entrap his soul and learns to flower, so does the nobleman, who by the end of the book, has given up his illnesses, seized the day and is running off to India with his servant and his cook, turned fiancee.
The story is decent and is kicky-fun, but is mercifully short (after a while the jokes and humor start to wear thin, if the author didn't wrap it up quickly, it wouldn't have been as good). I have to admit, I think a stereotypical teenage boy would enjoy the story more, with its "potty humor." Don't get me wrong, I love a fun and silly story, and I enjoy a good dirty joke, but there was something in this book that was just lacking. So it gets an "ok" from me. It's not terrible in the least, the plot is good, the research into the history surrounding the story (and the glossary) is solid, the writing just fell a wee bit flat for me.