The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner
|The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Stefan Bachmann|
|Summary: A thrilling historical romp set amidst the drama and bloodshed of the French Revolution. Lively prose, haunting imagery, and a perfectly-judged dose of fantasy are just the icing on the cake for this dazzling book.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 384||Date: August 2008|
|Publisher: Orion Children's Books|
Paris's streets are already humming with talk of revolution, when the young gypsy Yann Margoza is summoned to perform his magic at the chateau of a selfish, debt-ridden marquise. He is to tell the assembled aristocracy their future. But what he hoped would be the ticket to a better life turns into a nightmare when he has a vision of the richly-dressed crowd drowning in a sea of blood.
To make matters worse, he catches the attention of one Count Kalliovsky, a sinister gentlemen who searches out nobility in distress and lends them money in return for little favours, little secrets. And not only does this mysterious fellow want the secret of Jan's powers, he also wants the marquise's neglected daughter Sido, and the hefty fortune her marriage will bring. But neither Yann nor Sido are willing to give themselves up without a fight, and they soon become unlikely allies in a desperate attempt to escape the count and the oncoming revolution.
About a year ago I got to review another book by Sally Gardner, The Silver Blade, which is actually the sequel to this one. It's a great book, rich and complex, and one of my all-time favourite YA historicals. Orion is re-releasing the two in fetching new covers this year, so I got the opportunity to review Necklace as well. I was expecting it to be a little strange, reading the first book now, but it wasn't. Necklace is completely self-contained and so full of twists and turns, double-crossings and thrills, that it doesn't really matter in what order you read the books, or whether you read one and leave the other one out all together.
One of my favourite things about Necklace is the way that Gardner blends her fantasy elements in with the facts of Revolutionary France. It's brilliantly done. You're not going to be scratching your head over the living dolls and floating teapots populating 18th century Paris. The magic is perfectly dosed and expertly written, and not once does it detract from the historical shenanigans.
The prose itself isn't quite as beautifully assured as in the second book, but it does have a certain energy and sparkle about it that makes for constantly engaging reading. Also, it conjures up some absolutely gob-smacking imagery. Powerful, haunting stuff. I actually gasped out loud once, and I haven't done that while reading a book in ages.
It has some great characters, too. Yann is an appealing protagonist, but it's really Sido who steals the show. She's deep and conflicted, and her struggle to deal with the pain of having a father who will never love her no matter what she does is heart-breaking. It's too bad the villains are so one-sided in their diabolic evil. For all the nuance in other parts of the book, I was expecting more here.
Still, it's a fantastic book, and the only reason I'm giving it four-and-a-half stars instead of five is because it just isn't as jaw-droppingly terrific as I thought The Silver Blade was. Fans of teen historicals/fantasy definitely shouldn't miss it, though, and really anyone looking for a good story well told will find nothing lacking here.
Many thanks to Orion for sending Bookbag a copy.
If you enjoyed this book then you absolutely must read its sequel. The Silver Blade is fantastic. (That's the last time I'll say it, I promise.) Gideon the Cutpurse by Linda Buckley-Archer is another great historical thriller, but with a time-travel spin.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner at Amazon.com.
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