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.


I, Coriander by Sally Gardner

Puffin Books, 2005

(Courtesy of

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.


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Strengths: As with The Red Necklace, I enjoyed Gardner’s blending of magic elements and historical references.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.