Tales from Schwartzgarten: Marius and the Band of Blood by Christopher William Hill
|Tales from Schwartzgarten: Marius and the Band of Blood by Christopher William Hill|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Linda Lawlor|
|Summary: The bodies pile up, sinister characters stalk the streets and children disappear at a terrifying rate, but somehow Marius finds hope, friendship and even a few laughs. A rollicking good read with overtones of Christopher Ridddell and Roald Dahl, with a just a dollop of Lemony Snicket.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 304||Date: November 2015|
|Publisher: Orchard Books|
|External links: Author's website|
Frankly, it's a surprise to discover there are still people left alive in the gloomy town of Schwartzgarten. In this story, the fourth in the series, creepy bad guys in masks roam the town after dark. The local kiddie catcher is determined to rid the streets of orphans by any means he can (quite a challenge, considering how high the death rate among parents is) and for some reason the chocolatiers of the town are being murdered in inventive and frequently sticky ways.
None of this is exactly good news for poor Marius, whose parents have just been killed by wolves, leaving him penniless. His only remaining relative is grumpy Kalvitas, the oldest remaining chocolate maker and a member of the esteemed Guild of Twelve – which, if someone has their way, could very soon be the Guild of None. But Marius' fortunes begin to change when he encounters the mysterious Band of Blood, a group dedicated to rescuing and protecting vulnerable orphans. Alongside his new friends he battles bloodthirsty and dastardly villains, one of whom may actually be hidden among the ranks of the Band itself.
The world of Schwartzgarten is a peculiar place. Maybe the dark and brooding atmosphere has got to people over the years (after all, the cemetery takes up a quarter of the town, and if this story is anything to go by, they're going to have to buy up more ground pretty soon), or maybe, as the guidebook proudly announces, people can't forget their town's history of warfare, murder and intrigue. Parents seem unable or unwilling to love their children (Marius' own parents were so neglectful of their son that they managed to forget his fourth birthday) and the only creatures that thrive are the rats. An odd setting for stories for younger readers? Well no, not really. Most children do enjoy the sensation of being scared – as long as it's within the safe confines of fiction. You can always put the book down, after all, and wander off to annoy your little brother for a while instead. And when murder and cruelty are shown in such weird and colourful ways, the horror evaporates and provokes, instead, cheerful squeals of mingled delight and disgust – nothing that bizarre could possibly have any connection to real life.
However, there is only one drawback to this excellent book, and it's a serious one. Readers who have a sweet tooth, take heed! If you read this story right to the bitter end, you may find that you will never be able to bring yourself to eat chocolate pralines again. You know – just in case.
Schwartzgarten is rich with stories, and even though the characters from the different books never meet it's well worth getting hold of the others in the series. Bookbag particularly enjoyed Osbert the Avenger and The Woebegone Twins. For another series where the setting itself is so strange it almost becomes a character in the book, try Neversuch House by Elliott Skell and the sequel Mask of the Evergones. And if, after all that gruesomeness, you'd like something equally eccentric, but with a somewhat lower body count, go for Alex, the Dog and the Unopenable Door by Ross Montgomery. Most sensible pet dog ever!
You can read more book reviews or buy Tales from Schwartzgarten: Marius and the Band of Blood by Christopher William Hill at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Tales from Schwartzgarten: Marius and the Band of Blood by Christopher William Hill at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.