Mezzowriter's ReadWriter Blog

Reading, Writing, and The Search for Buried Gems of Literature

What I’m Reading #2: I, Coriander January 8, 2010

Filed under: Book Reviews,What I'm Reading — mezzowriter @ 11:38 pm
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After finishing The Red Necklace, I decided to pick up Gardner’s previous book.

Another eye-catching cover.

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I, Coriander by Sally Gardner

Puffin Books, 2005

(Courtesy of Amazon.com)

From Booklist

Gr. 7-10. This first novel’s cover, picturing a sumptuously dressed girl who holds viewers in a steady gaze, resembles that of Karen Cushman’s Catherine, Called Birdy (1994) and Gail Carson Levine’s lla Enchanted (1997). But Coriander’s story is more intricate than either of these, challenging readers with casual interpolations of fantasy into Commonwealth-era English history. When Coriander’s Royalist father flees political enemies, she is left with an odious stepmother and a wrathful Puritan minister. After a particularly harsh punishment, Coriander awakens in another world, where she discovers that her real mother was a fairy princess and that her human guardians serve a destructive fairy queen. Coriander must be the first to locate a hidden object of power and use it to restore fairyland to health (and, as implied, prompt the Restoration back home). Not every reader will have patience for the story’s stately unfolding, but those who persist will reap rewards from Gardner’s conjuring of both turbulent seventeenth-century London and the shimmering mysteries of fairyland. American readers may find it useful to start with the historical endnote. Jennifer Mattson

Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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January 17, 2010

Plagued by a bout of insomnia, I picked this book back up and finished it.  Overall I’d say it was a decent read, certainly not a waste of my time, but obviously it took me a few days to put it away.

Strengths: As with The Red Necklace, I enjoyed Gardner’s blending of magic elements and historical references.  She manages it without sounding too fanciful, or degenerating too deeply into a fairy tale.  I found the older Coriander to be a strong, interesting character.  The characters of Maud and Arise Fell are delightfully wicked, and they’re characters you love to hate.

Potential Weaknesses: My primary difficulty in reading the book had something to do with the first half of the book–the young Coriander.  I found it a little difficult to invest in the younger version.  I don’t know if it threatened to feel a bit Cinderella-ish, or if I just prefer an adolescent character to a child.  Also, towards the end of the book, the tightness of the plot began to loosen.  In particular, I found the ending–the last chapter or so–of the book a little unsatisfying and abrupt.

My Rating:

Enjoyable, not stunning.  A pleasant diversion.

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What I’m Reading #1: The Red Necklace January 1, 2010

Okay, so I’ll admit it.  I am fickle about what I read sometimes.

I will be FAR more likely to pick up a book and give it consideration if it has a captivating cover.  This, like Jacqueline Kolosov ‘s “The Red Queen’s Daughter,” was one of those titles.  Being a lover of historical fiction doesn’t hurt, either.

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The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner

Dial, 2008

From School Library Journal  (Courtesy of Amazon.com)

Grade 7–10—As the first embers of the French Revolution begin to burn, Yann Margoza, a 14-year-old voice thrower and mind reader, watches his simple life as a magician’s assistant disappear before his eyes. During one fateful midnight performance at the chateau of an overindulgent, debt-ridden marquis, a string of irreversible events unfurls. Jolted from the only world he’s known, Yann becomes inextricably intertwined with the marquis’s 12-year-old daughter and lecherous, treacherous Count Kalliovski. Yann struggles to make the right choices while coming to terms with his origins and unique abilities in order to save those he loves. Gardner deftly plays out the same brand of intrigue, romance, and murky intentions beautifully rendered in recent period magician films, The Prestige and The Illusionist. Readers will root for Yann and Sido as they struggle toward adulthood amid the political and social turmoil surrounding and sometimes endangering them. At the book’s end, Gardner provides further historical background on late-18th-century France, though most readers will find themselves wishing simply for a sequel to continue this engrossing tale.—Jill Heritage Maza, Greenwich High School, CT
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Wednesday, January 6, 2009

I put this one away in about three days.  If I’d had more time (it’s been a very busy week so far) I’d have done it in less.

Strengths: As historical fiction goes, it was fairly accurate.  I appreciated the author’s notes at the end that included a timeline of the French Revolution.  Overall solid characterizations, likable characters (I was particularly drawn to Sido’s character–some bit of Jane Eyre-like modeling of her early on, in my opinion).   Excellently set up for sequel possibilities.

Potential Flaws: In hindsight, I might have made better use of the author’s notes if they were used as a preface to the novel.  As I read, I sensed some disjointedness in the passage of time–inexplicable lapses of time that left me puzzled.  Having the timeline (even a general one) prior to reading the story might have prevented that.  However, this was only a minor disruption to the flow.

My Rating:

An enjoyable read, worth the time.


Update:

While updating my “What I’m Reading” image widget for I, Coriander, I stumbled upon Gardner’s sequel!  The Silver Blade is currently available!  I hope to track down a copy soon.