Tinder by Sally Gardner
|Tinder by Sally Gardner|
|Reviewer: Linda Lawlor|
|Summary: Dark magic and menace follow Otto when he defies Death and becomes master of the tinderbox.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 256||Date: November 2013|
|External links: Author's website|
Shortlisted for the 2015 CILIP Carnegie Medal
Shortlisted for the 2015 CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal
Sally Gardner has followed her wonderful and haunting Maggot Moon with another story about a world at war, but although death and violence abound once again, the atmosphere here is very different. This time we are not in some alternate nineteen fifties Britain where the bad guys have won, but instead in the eerie, mist-filled world of the fairy tale. In this place wonders and magic lead the hero to his destiny, and love, power and greed are the catalysts for both joy and despair.
Many readers will be familiar with the tale of the soldier and the tinderbox, especially when those three dogs (remember the eyes as large as millstones?) appear. But this is a fuller, richer tale, and the reader must be warned that there is no guarantee that events here will follow the path set down by Hans Christian Andersen. We first meet our hero in 1642 on the battlefield of Breitenfeld, at the end of a day of desperate fighting. Otto Hundebiss has watched his friends and comrades in arms suffer and die before his eyes, and he feels he can take no more: he has had more than his fill of blood and sorrow. And yet, despite his terrible wounds, when Death himself appears Otto demands to be allowed to live. For once Death agrees — after all, it has had its fill of souls that day in the forest — and the young man sets off alone on a literal and figurative path which he could never have imagined beforehand.
This book may be based on a fairy tale, but don't expect anything remotely approaching sparkly wands and happy ever after. This is a thoroughly Gothic story, full of menace, and (ably assisted by David Roberts' atmospheric and unsettling illustrations) it features many of the best-known conventions of the genre. Strange, scary castles in the woods lure unwary travellers to their doom, and townsfolk barricade their homes each night for fear of the monsters that roam outside the walls. There is, as in the very best tales, a distressed and helpless heroine, and Otto himself features as the traditional outsider, welcomed and rejected in turn by society. The atmosphere throughout is dark and mysterious, and even when Otto falls for the pure and beautiful Safire there is little to suggest he can hope to win her hand. A heavy sense of dread hangs over his world, and although he does at times experience happiness and encounter kindly companions on the road, the curse of solitude and failure is ever-present. It is, as ever with Ms Gardner's books, beautifully written, moving and engrossing, and for lovers of the dark and doom-ridden, it is well worth reading.
If you haven't already read Maggot Moon you should consider doing so: the main character and the story are hard to forget, and the book has rightly won several awards. You might also appreciate My Side of the Diamond by Sally Gardner.
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