BLURB: “Paris, 1789. While the aristocracy dine, dance, gossip and gamble their way to disaster, the poor and starving dream of revolution. Enter the boy Yann Margoza, destined to be a hero; Tetu the dwarf, his friend and mentor; Sido, unloved daughter of the foolish Marquis de Villeduval; and the sinister Count Kalliovski, who holds half the aristocracy in thrall to him. The drama moves from Paris to London and back, as the Revolution gathers momentum, and the hope of liberty and the dream of equality are crushed beneath the wheel of terror. Too many secrets, too many murders, and the blade of the guillotine is yet to fall…”
REVIEW: This book is primarily designed for Young Adult readers, as sort of a fictional introduction to the events of the first few years of the French Revolution, and I very much enjoyed it. Gardner’s writing is brilliantly evocative and her descriptions of the horrific mentality displayed by the mob is highly realistic and shocking to the reader. Gardner is also highly skilled at making the reader develop an attachment to the main characters, particularly Yann and Sido, though Tetu the dwarf is also a heartwarming invention. The novel tells the story of Yann Margoza, a young boy of gypsy heritage who is working with a magician and Tetu in a show with an automaton, where his ability to project his voice and read minds is highly prized. When the magician Topolain is murdered by the sinister Count Kalliovski, however, Tetu and Yann are forced to go on the run as Kalliovski realises that Tetu knows far too much about his past. These events see Yann flee to London, where he is taken in by the kindly Laxton couple, yet he cannot forget about Tetu or the young aristocratic girl he met when he was escaping – Sido. Sido is the neglected daughter of a Marquis who longs to break free but is forced into obeying the will of a father whom she is unswervingly loyal to, despite his cruelty. As the revolution begins to gain pace however, and terrifying secrets about Kalliovski’s murderous past begin to emerge, Yann knows that despite his fears he must return to Paris and save Sido from a fate worse than death. This novel is well-written and perfectly captures the atmosphere of the revolution, and I particularly enjoyed reading of the budding romance that developed between Yann and Sido.