Posted by: Natalie | May 19, 2010

The Sisters Macabre

If ever there was to be a book turned film, it should so be The Silver Blade by Sally Gardner. I haven’t quite finished it yet, so a full review will be written in a couple of days. But today, I would like to introduce you to some of the most sinister imaginings I have come across in children’s fiction.

First, let me place you correctly in time. The Silver Blade is set in Paris (and its surroundings, as well as some London scenes) in 1793 – Revolutionary France. Call upon all your preconceived ideas of this era of what the human specimens might look like, particularly the women. I think of Madame Thenardier from Les Mis, Mrs Miggins from Blackadder and even, on reading these pages, the vampire girls from last week’s Doctor Who.

Madame Thenardier

Mrs Miggins

Doctor Who's Venice Vamps

So we are talking highly coiffured wigs, regal boned dresses with hooped skirts, white painted skin, bright red lips and the hallmark black beauty spot painted into place. I almost think it as drag-queen-esq. Now think of them dead. Then re-awoken by evil spirits. These seven women are terrifying. They are the faithful servants of the equally dead Count Kalliovski and skulk around the catacombs and dark corners of this most dangerous of times in Paris. Sally Gardner paints them in a most vivid terror, with this line from chapter 23 highlighting some of their most disturbing facial attributes:

They curtsied. . . . Their eyes were like glass, their skin stitched upon their faces, their mouths sewn tight.

They come across as an army of Frankenstein monsters, created and ‘put together’ by their evil master, the Count. I have been having dreams, or perhaps nightmares, of these disgusting creatures creeping around dark corners, climbing ungainly through windows and out of boxes, the whole time creepy sinister voices apparently seeping from their tightly sewn lips. Gothic gruesome at its finest! Characters in the book only seem to know the Seven Sisters Macabre are upon them from the eerie chanting that precedes them, chanting that comes from mouths that can never move:

‘Calico and Corpses.’

An Icy hand touched his.

‘Sisters Macabre, is it you?’ he asked the pitch-black, endless darkness. Something snowflake soft stroked his face. Holding his nerve, he tried once more to relight his lantern. Every time, the flame would flicker and die.

‘Damask and death.’

‘Where are you?’ he asked.

‘Where we should be. Where you belong.’

Finally the flame took and light spilled out, and to his great relief he could see.

‘Tulle and truth.’

(Chapter 14)

They are truly grotesque and sinister and should so be immortalised on screen! Maybe a project for Tim Burton? I am devouring every terrifying element of this book and think children are actually missing out – I think the true horror can only be appreciated by an older, more warped mind! Congrats to Sally Gardner for an amazing book, and thank you for making me squirm!

Come back in a couple of days and I shall provide you with a run down on just how terrific the whole work is!


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