Times Review: The Silver Blade by Sally Gardner

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Times Review

The Silver Blade by Sally Gardner, reviewed by Amanda Craig, who thinks it "by far the best British book for children I have read this year". Hence a more substantial blockquote than usual...


Gardner occupies a unique place in children's literature, which The Silver Blade assures. In 2005 she made the leap from picture books to novels, producing the prize-winning I, Coriander, comparable to both Pan's Labyrinth and Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber. It was a striking fusion of Puritan political history and Gothic fairytale. Here, the influence of Carter is even more pronounced, in that the resonance of traditional fantasy is woven into a first-rate suspense novel addressing the issues of the French Revolution and its "indomitable killing machine ... as blind to the innocent as it is to the guilty".

As in Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities, the tension between the cruel steel and frail flesh is heightened by ardent love. Sido's reunion with her lover has everything in its way, from class to murder. Yann, "a tightrope walker over the Valley of Death", is an appealing hero and his magical abilities inevitably set him up for an ultimate trial of strength and will, with Sido's life at stake. With its reversals, surprises, scholarship and dramatic details of an era so soaked in blood that the Seine ran red, The Silver Blade is historical fiction at its height. No reader, old or young, could resist its passion, told in crystalline prose and peopled with characters as engaging as the dwarf Tetu, bear-like Didier and the venal Mr Tull. It is by far the best British book for children I have read this year. AMANDA CRAIG

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This page contains a single entry by achuka published on April 19, 2009 10:16 AM.

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