Thursday, 26 November 2015

Tinder by Sally Gardner

 illustrated by David Roberts
review by Maryom

Otto Hundebiss is tired of war, has seen too much of "man's inhumane heart" but still refuses the hand that Death offers him. Instead he wakes up in a forest, where a half-beast, half-man creature gives him boots to walk in and a set of dice that will tell him which path to follow...and so he sets out on an adventure. He falls in love with the beautiful Safire, is imprisoned by the sinister Lady of the Nail, and although he wins his freedom, can Otto save Safire from an arranged marriage?

Using the phrase "illustrated folk tale" to describe this will conjure up images of a brightly-coloured fairy tale for children - don't be mistaken, for Tinder is nothing like that! Folk tales were once much scarier and darker than the sanitised versions put out for children today and Sally Gardner has taken Hans Christian Andersen's The Tinder Box story back to those darker origins. Otto and Safire represent the pure-of-heart innocents struggling against the powers of hate, revenge, and jealousy, personified by truly terrifying characters, not the Pantomime-style villains of younger children's fiction; the Lady of the Nail and the scheming Mistress Jabber will send shivers up and down your spine, and the werewolves just plain horrify you! The writing is compelling and atmospheric, and doesn't pull punches;  werewolves are hungry, blood-thirsty beasts, and war isn't glorious but filled with violence, rape and death.  Through Otto's dreams we see flashbacks to the past that haunts him, the horrific things that happened to his family, and the guilt he still carries.  As I said, it's not a pleasant children's bedtime story.

  The mood throughout is menacing and chilling, and David Roberts' excellent illustrations  - in black and white with vivid splashes of blood red - echo and even increase this mood.

What age group would I say it was for? Teens and onwards, with no upper limit. Although it's published as a 'children's book', I found it enthralling enough to consider it readable by adults with a taste for the fantastical and bizarre.

Maryom's Review - 4.5 stars
Publisher - Indigo/Hachette
Genre - folk tale, teen +

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