Tales from Schwartzgarten: Osbert the Avenger by Christopher William Hill
|Tales from Schwartzgarten: Osbert the Avenger by Christopher William Hill|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Linda Lawlor|
|Summary: The teachers at the Institute are extremely cruel. It gets so bad that in this story, the first of four about the city of Schwartzgarten, a studious and highly intelligent boy feels compelled to take action. And he isn't just thinking of a stern letter to the Board of Governors. He wants something a little more decisive. And painful.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 352||Date: October 2012|
Schwartzgarten is an odd place. Oh, it has all the usual stuff, like banks and libraries and palaces and glue factories, but it also has a somewhat excessive fascination with the gruesome and gory. This is due in large part to the fact that the city was embroiled in civil unrest, assassinations and battles for over two hundred years, and in consequence the cemetery where Nanny takes Osbert for his daily walk is a quarter the size of Schwartzgarten itself. Roads have names like Bone-Orchard Street, and the Old Town is rife with cut-throats.
Horror like this cannot help but be a bad influence on a young boy's mind, and it's not helped by the fact that his nanny keeps a set of photos in her room, showing military gentlemen she has loved, who all met dreadful and untimely deaths. And when that boy is a watchful and thoughtful young genius, then the outcome of all this is likely to be catastrophic. Clever people have the ability to think up much more, well, inventive punishments . . . .
Osbert does not seem at first to be a threat to the peace and stability of the city, but when he is accepted as a student at The Institute life suddenly becomes darker and more violent. The school is a grim and secret place set at the top of a hill overlooking the city, and its motto Scientia est potentia (knowledge is power) is a clear indication of the relationship between the staff and the townsfolk. Osbert objects to the cruelty meted out to a delicate young girl he has befriended there, and the stage is set for a tale of retribution and revenge of the most bloodthirsty type.
The history of children's books is no stranger to dark and vicious deeds. Roald Dahl and Hillaire Belloc are obvious examples of the type, and more recently the series entitled A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket has proved extremely popular. In these books three young orphans find that various adults are constantly trying to kill them in the most terrifying and unusual ways. Osbert is a clear descendant of this tradition, but what is not so clear is whether he is a villain or a hero. The people he punishes are vicious crooks and murderers who have destroyed his own family's happiness and who hold the city in thrall. They steal, beat, bully and corrupt with impunity, and it could be said that Osbert, like some latter-day Robin Hood, is only redressing the balance. The fact that he is barely eleven years old is incidental.
Truth be told, the sinister occurrences in this book are related with such panache that they seem more funny than macabre. Young children enjoy a generous helping of blood and guts in their reading, and many of them are never happier than when they are squealing in disgust at some new and inventive means of annihilating one's enemies. Yes, this book is dark, but it is also comic, and it has a clear moral message. In fact, it's one of those rare books children will happily read aloud to each other, which is one of the highest accolades a story can have.
The Raven Mysteries by the inspired Marcus Sedgwick don't contain as much violence as this book, but they do have that same wonderful mix of comic quirkiness and gothic gloom. Bookbag really enjoyed Lunatics and Luck and Vampires and Volts.
You can read more book reviews or buy Tales from Schwartzgarten: Osbert the Avenger by Christopher William Hill at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Tales from Schwartzgarten: Osbert the Avenger 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.