I, Coriander

Sally Gardner



Oct 2005

Not since I feverishly immersed myself in the fantasy adventures of E. Nesbit and Elizabeth Goudge over twenty years ago have I been so utterly swept away with the fairies. As an adult I’ve enjoyed many ‘magical realism’ stories, and have at times revisited various interpretations of the traditional fairy tales, but Sally Gardner’s I, Coriander refreshed my imagination and enthusiasm for all things magical beyond any of these.
Part fairytale, part historical snapshot, it seamlessly weaves two sharply contrasting worlds ‘ the oppressive, controlling and threatening real world of 1650s pre-Restoration London and a dreamlike fairyland ‘ both seen through the eyes of our spirited heroine, Coriander. All the essential fairytale ingredients are here – a Wicked Stepmother, a Handsome Prince, Magic, Hardship and a Happy Ending – but there is also much originality and freshness about the author’s approach to the genre. Without the use of her paintbrush, Gardner expertly evokes through graceful yet unfussy prose a vivid, theatrical backdrop in which the reader feels almost part of the scenery. Her characters are equally well decorated, each with their own quirky back-story, and with a role to play in the advancement of the storyline.
Coriander’s transition from na’ve and rather spoiled child to world-wise young woman is no picnic. She swings between heartbreak and exhilaration during an emotional and physical journey that sees the death of her mother, the prolonged exile of her father and exposure to brutal cruelty, as well as the forging of new friendships and the first flutters of romantic love. The impressively paced narrative comes to a satisfying conclusion without indulging in too many clich’s and an uplifting ending suggests the beginnings of further adventures. Whether or not there is a sequel, I am content to entertain many more magical possibilities for the inhabitants of this beautifully imagined enchanted world.

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