If you are still reading Harry Potter then put the books down NOW and step into Sally Gardner’s world of revolutionary France. The Silver Blade is a must read book regardless of your adult status. Yes it is a ‘teenage’ book, but that should not mean you deprive yourself of some of the most compelling writing of the genre. At the very least, in comparison to adult fiction it is an easy and self indulgent read.
This book technically, it would seem, follows on from The Red Necklace, in that the same characters are narrating the storyline. However, it is not essential that this book should be read before The Silver Blade as Sally Gardner has cleverly written it to stand alone and proud. But, why would you not read The Red Necklace first? Why would you forego the sheer delight of her language and magnificent story telling prowess. It can only make the reading of The Silver Blade a richer experience.
The Silver Blade continues the story of Yann Margoza, the magical Gypsy boy who has the power to control threads of light to his own mystical end. He, like all good heroes, uses these threads to do good, mainly in a reinvented version of the Scarlet Pimpernel. He, along with close comrade Didier, are responsible for the myth and legend of the Silver Blade. Using the gypsy magic, he is able to rescue the ‘aristos’ from their prison cells before they are sent to the guillotine. He then delivers them safely to the French coast for these exiles to escape to safer shores. The legend derives from gossip of prison guards who have seen the supposed ‘calling card’ of the Silver Blade; a toy guillotine blade mysteriously suspended above their heads by some unknown power.
But this is merely the side plot. The real story revolves around the evil Count Kalliovski, a strange wax work of his former self. Having been killed in the previous book he appears as an almost zombie like demon killing and cutting up others to make faithful automatons. Seven of his best examples are the Sisters Macabre (see previous post). He also keeps a sickening collection of re-animated decapitated heads, including that of the Marquis de Villeduval; the father of Yann’s great love, Sido Villeduval.
Sido is currently safe in London, the keeper of Yann’s most sacred shell talisman – the greatest of gypsy magic. However, Kalliovski has other plans. He wants Sido for himself but living, as he does, in the curious world between life and death. He plans to trap Yann with her kidnap, steal his ability to control the threads of light and then create the greatest automaton in Sido, and keep her as his bride. Kalliovski, with his skeleton hand, can already control the dark threads and needs Yann’s powers to become invincible.
Sido is indeed kidnapped and returned to the catacombs of Paris, but the news goes a rye. Yann only hears that she has been killed and so his life begins to unravel. He discovers his true parentage which leads him further into despair. If that were not enough, he feels responsible for all his companions from the Circus of Follies being caught and sentenced to death. In his carelessness he too is incarcerated, loosing his ability to control the threads of light. The outlook does indeed look bleak. But a sudden realisation, and a little gypsy magic, spurs Yann into motivation and the Silver Blade returns once more to save the day! Hooray!!
I think the best description I can actually give is the quote by Meg Rostoff on the blurb of this book:
The Silver Blade is a tale of swashbuckling heroics, a tragedy dripping with blood and loss, a delicious love story set in the whirling heart of the French Revolution. Sally Gardner’s cast of unlikely heroes and misfits transforms history into something wonderfully thrilling and fresh. I bow to her storytelling brilliance.
There are many characters which add to the entertainment and darkness of the story including and giant man-eating dog which explodes into flames (it belonging to the devil! Yeah. Really!), a gypsy dwarf with a talking parrot that sits atop his head, the frankenstein like Sisters Macabre made from sewn together body bits, and a whole host of traitors, spies, and egotistical dandies! Truly wonderful!
The more I read this book, the more I believed in the unique selling point of my own. This is another perfect example of that delicate line between junior and teenage fiction. I would expect my most readers in the 9-12 bracket to be able to read this book. The language is challenging without it being unreadable for children at that age. And on the whole, the content is thrilling, interesting and completely engaging. The things that make it a ‘teenage’ book however are certain pieces of inappropriate language (for the junior market) and a nod to Yann and Sido ‘spending the night together’ – if you know what I mean! *wink* This is what I want to avoid. I believe that my book has the ability to challenge the junior readers without slipping onto dodgy ground. I believe it has a similar heart, originality and magic that is suited to those able readers without forcing them onto moral ground that maybe should not be approached until they are that little bit older.
So, I am invigorated. Not only have I experienced a pure pearl of enjoyment in this book, but I am encouraged that I am on the right track. I just need to convince an agent of the same!
Go, mooch the books now!
This weeks reading: Chocolat by Joanne Harris