The Red Necklace – Sally Gardner
Orion Children’s Books, 2007
In the winter of 1789, Paris is a city bitter with poverty and despair. Aristocrats dance in jewelled shoes while their people starve. It is a time when one particular dealer of death is free at his work, and in one disastrous night his cards are laid down. A notorious nobleman’s unloved daughter is summoned back to a household of lies. A magician is murdered in the middle of a lavish party. And a boy who can read minds predicts a rising tide of blood that will wash them all away. The question is, who will survive it?
This story of the French Revolution is a dark, enigmatic fantasy that is at the same time thoroughly grounded in its period. Gardner’s writing is graceful and evocative, but the plot is less successful – it branches off in directions that are abruptly curtailed, relies too heavily on coincidence, under-utilises key characters and leaves too many loose ends for my satisfaction, though the latter may be resolved in the sequel, The Silver Blades.