My rating: 3 of 5 stars
As with I, Coriander, Gardner creates a world of vivid settings, complex characters, rich historical details, and a thread of magical realism. As with I, Coriander, I really wanted to love the book, but I never quite lost myself in either one.
Here, I was sometimes distracted by the audio version. Most of the story is set in France, with a few chapters in England, and all dialogue is read with the appropriate accent. While this helps to distinguish between peasants and aristocrats, English characters and French, it proved extremely annoying to listen to an entire book read this way. I could understand why the decision was made to record the book in this style, but it was often distracting from the characters and story.
On the other hand, the story does a fantastic job of setting up the causes of the French Revolution, allowing the reader to understand the gulf between aristocrats and peasants as well as the brutality of the peasants’ revenge. A historical note at the end adds a bit more information, but I think the story would be easily understood by readers (probably middle school through high school) who don’t necessarily know much about this period of history. The magical realism, theater life, and automata add a nice twist to the story. While this cover makes it look more like a girl book, much of the story is from Yann’s perspective and I think it could appeal to both boys and girls interested in historical fiction.