The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner
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Source: Borrowed from library
Plot Summary (from Goodreads):
The story of a remarkable boy called Yann Margoza; Tetu the dwarf, his friend and mentor; Sido, unloved daughter of a foolish Marquis; and Count Kalliovski, Grand Master of a secret society, who has half the aristocracy in thrall to him, and wants Yann dead. Yann is spirited away to London but three years later, when Paris is gripped by the bloody horrors of the Revolution, he returns, charged with two missions: to find out Kalliovski's darkest deeds and to save Sido from the guillotine. With a tangle of secrets, a thread of magic and a touch of humour, the follies of the aristocracy and the sufferings of ordinary people are unfolded as their lives move relentlessly towards the tragic and horrific days of the Terror.
I thoroughly enjoyed Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner, and when I spotted this book on the library shelf I grabbed it on the name alone. The Red Necklace follows several characters during the French Revolution. Yann and Sido come from opposite ends of the social spectrum yet find their lives woven together as the uprising begins.
If this book hadn't been written by Gardner, I'll admit it would probably never even have popped up on my radar. Historical fiction isn't usually my thing, and my knowledge of the French Revolution is entirely based on the film adaptation of Les Miserables. Having finished the book I am delighted I took the plunge and took myself out of that comfort zone, because The Red Necklace was a fantastic read and an extremely pleasant surprise.
The book follows Yann, a performer who has the ability to read minds and control automatons. When he performs at a party for the Marquis, he finds himself wrapped up in a suspicious death, one of many to come. Whilst the book is historical and set in a very interesting period of history, it also has touches of mystery and fantasy about it which really drew me in. The Red Necklace itself is something that appears on the bodies of those who have been killed - sort of a trademark of the killer. I loved this mix of themes and ideas running through the book, but it was the mystery that really kept me invested in the story and characters.
Yann and Sido were my favourite characters. I really felt for Sido who is neglected by her father. She spends most of her time away at a convent and when she returns is abused and mocked because of her limp. Her father being wealthy also lands her on the side of the rich during the revolution, something she gets no say in. Some of the things she goes through during the story because of her background were so horrifying. I loved the relationship between the two of them and how they look out for each other and help the other one despite their differences.
The historical element of the story was what made me nervous before reading it, but it made for a brilliant backdrop to Yann's story. That sense of something building and the unease between the characters was really well done. I could feel it all bubbling under and was just waiting for things to really come to a head. It's a period of history I found completely fascinating and would definitely go and read more about in the future.
There were some real twists and turns throughout the book, and I loved the mystery element and the villainous characters. I loved that the plot was really strong and that it was interwoven with the historical timeline.
Overall I enjoyed this book and it was a nice quick read. I really came to feel for the characters and the ending made me want to carry on reading and fall back into that world.
What to read next: The Silver Blade by Sally Gardner, the sequel to The Red Necklace
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