Friday, December 9, 2011

Book Review: The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner

Dial, 2008; 372 pages; ISBN 0803731000
My Goodreads Rating: 4 stars
I've found that historical fiction written for teens is actually pretty great for adults too, and The Red Necklace is a great example of that.  At first I didn't know what was going on in the story, but once I delved into it, I was hooked. There are actually two heroes in the story - a gypsy boy with supernatural powers named Yann and a young heiress named Sido who is despised by her greedy & narcissistic father, the Marquise.  Yann travels with Tetu and Topolain entertaining crowds with their magical act, but Yann's magic is real.  Sido was until recently living in a nunnery because her father has no interest in her, especially because an accident caused her to have a permanent limp.  When Yann arrives at the Marquise's châteaux for a special performance, he is met not only with Sido, but also with the story's heartless villain, Count Kalliovski.  In the Count you get a true villain, which made the story much more intriguing and foreboding.  Some say he is the devil incarnate, and he uses people's secrets to bind them to him with debt, blackmail them, and in turn gain power. When he spots Topolain and his magical act, he challenges him to an almost impossible feat: to survive a bullet.  From there the story progresses to Count Kalliovski setting his eyes on the young Sido, who is, to say the least, utterly repulsed by him.  Her father promises her hand in marriage nonetheless.  The French Revolution setting brings the whole story to life. I don't know much about this period of time, but I will certainly be reading more about it now.  Although Yann comes across Sido and her situation early on, and his story separates and alternates between some of his formative years and the drama that is building up in Paris, the story never feels discombobulated or boring. You get to experience both the story of Sido and the story of Yann and then their stories come together in a way that completely makes sense.  The ending was tied up nicely without being too neat.  There is a follow up to the book entitled The Silver Blade (Dial, 2009) and it is on my to-read list for next year. If you like historical fiction, I think you will enjoy The Red Necklace.

Photo: From website

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