By Sally Gardner, Book I of “French Revolution” series
“Our story is over, though in its end lies its beginning.”
A gorgeous story, with lovely descriptions and superb narration throughout, and an interesting plot. It is light on characterization, which is painted in rather broad strokes, with the protagonists spending very little actual time together. More of the main relationship is propelled through mystical/ emotional means.
Sido, the shy, neglected and mentally/ verbally abused daughter of the weak and spineless Marquis de Villeduval is a decent heroine. I wished that a little more attention had been paid to her and what she must have endured. I did get irritated at her refusal to leave her awful father behind, who had only ever hated and hurt her, but I could understand it nonetheless.
The Marquis himself is almost comic in the pathetigue of his self-absorbed stupidity, selfishness and unmitigated blindness to reality.
Count Kalliovski, our villain, exuded creepy, evilness right out of the pages of this book. Murderer of Topolain, Anis and countless others. Mysterious. Lustful. It is hinted at more than once that he has made some sort of pact with evil. All we really know is that he is Yann’s father and that he had been “in love” with Anis, Yann’s mother, and murdered her when she would not have him. At the end, it appears the Devil really is going to get him, that “cursed soul.” Yann and Sido best beware!
Yann Margoza himself. 14 at story’s beginning, 17 at the denoument and on his way back to France at the height of the French Revolution to try and save innocents from the slaughter. A full-blooded Gypsy/ Romany, he is quite gifted. Able to see the future and read minds, he can also work the threads of light, not to mention a talent for throwing his voice. There are hints that Yann is a great shaman-possibly the most powerful yet… Possibly, also, the “King of the Gypsy. That was less clear.
This is all set against the breathless backdrop of the French Revolution, one of the darkest periods in the history of Europe and certainly one of the most devastating for humanity. The bestial cruelty and sheer hateful butchery that was daily engaged in during those years of confusion and wholesale slaughter is still sickening to even contemplate. Sally Gardner seems to present the Revolution as good ideas gone terribly, horribly awry. I believe that the ideas of equality and freedom are paramount to all of mankind, at all times. No argument there. But after having looked into the Revolution’s roots, I would have to say that Egalite and Liberte were not the driving forces that inspired those who engineered the Revolution – far from it as they sought to set themselves up as their own special class the first opportunity they had. They used those admirable and monumental goals to gain the support of the masses…. and then betrayed them when it no longer served their purposes to string them along. One review I saw suggested that Gardner portrayed Danton, Marat and Robespierre favorably, but I saw no sign of that. In fact, since they hang out with Kalliovski, I would say they are tinged by association with evil.