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Book Review: The Red Necklace

Eleanor has read this QUICK READ as part of the Six Book Challenge. Remember to hand in your reading diaries for the Six Book Challenge in to the Information Store at Ipswich Road by the 19th June 2015 (that’s tomorrow!) – you’ll get a certificate and be entered into a prize draw!

For the Six Book Challenge, I challenged myself to read books entirely from the QUICK READS and EXPRESS FICTION sections of the Information Store. My final Six Book Challenge book is The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner (EXPRESS FICTION 823.91). I’ve been saving this book for last, as I’ve been looking forward to reading it for a long time. The Red Necklace is set in France in the early years of the French Revolution, a young adult historical thriller with supernatural elements.

In eighteenth-century France, the rich people who had inherited land and money were taxing the poor to pay for their lavish parties and expensive lifestyle. Beaten down by bad crops, starvation and crippling poverty, the people of France rose up and took control of the government, executing the aristocrats who had previously made their lives a misery with a new invention, the guillotine. As with many revolutions, however, the government began to persecute anyone who dared to speak out against the revolution and internal corruption and in-fighting led to a very bloody and violent period of time called the Reign of Terror, in which thousands of people were executed.

The novel features automata, early robots that were popular in 18th century France
The novel features automata like this one, early robots that were popular in 18th century France

The Red Necklace is the story of Yann and Sido, two teenagers from very different worlds. Yann is the assistant to a magician, along with his mentor Têtu, and can read minds. Sido is the daughter of a Marquis, who is ignored by her father, even as he throws expensive parties and borrows lots of money from the cruel Count Kallivoski. Yann and Sido meet and form a connection when the magician is performing at the Marquis’ house, but when the magician is murdered and Count Kallivoski seems to be the culprit, Yann is forced to run for his life, ending up in London. Sido is trapped with her father, who plans to marry her off to Kallivoski to pay off his debts, as the Revolution turns their world upside-down. Even worse, someone who owed the Count debts has been murdered, and around the victim’s neck was a necklace of red gems on a red ribbon, just like the one the Count carries. Will Sido become the Count’s next victim or a casualty of the revolution? And what is the truth about Yann’s mysterious past?

The Red Necklace is a tense and imaginative thriller with a really creepy villain and plucky heroes. Yann is street-smart and good at surviving but almost throws away the opportunity for a home and a family because he doesn’t believe he can have such good fortune. Sido is clever and compassionate, but her father doesn’t see her value as a person, just as an asset to be bargained away. The story is filled with mystery and suspense and is never boring. The horrors of the Revolution constantly intrude, but Gardner also explores the hope that it inspired in the people of France (and the horrible situations they were in before) as well as the fact that so many aristocrats just pretended that nothing was wrong. The Revolution has been a warning ever since that if people unite, they can change everything, but also that revolution and idealism can easily turn into terror.

I absolutely loved this book, and couldn’t put it down right to the end. I’m really glad that I took part in the Six Book Challenge because I might not have got around to reading it otherwise.

If you liked this…

Learn more about the French Revolution in the Horrible Histories books Rowdy Revolutions (BOOK ZONE 902.07) and France (BOOK ZONE 944) by Terry Deary. A light-hearted look at history that won’t skip the gory details!

Victor Hugo’s famous novel of the years before the Revolution, Les Misérables, is a bit daunting even for experienced readers, but never fear! We have a French adaptation (BOOK ZONE 843.7) and a recording of the 10th Anniversary concert at the Royal Albert Hall of the musical (DVD LOBBY 791.436), which is well worth a watch. Charles Dickens also wrote A Tale of Two Cities (NORFOLK HOUSE 823.8) about the Revolution, so if you would like a more challenging read that is not as huge as Les Misérables, give it a go.

Discover more young adult fiction in our EXPRESS FICTION section. The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud features a magician’s apprentice in the first of a trilogy of novels about a world controlled by magic users. My Swordhand is Singing by Marcus Sedgwick is set in seventeenth-century Eastern Europe, a dark horror tale about the folklore of vampires and those who hunt them. For another historical read, try The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman, a thriller about an amateur detective called Sally Lockhart who is determined to uncover the truth about her father’s death. Find all of these, and more, at EXPRESS FICTION 823.91.

six book challenge

Remember to hand your Six Book Challenge diaries in by the 19th of June to enter the prize draw!

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