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It was tough this month to choose a book to review because I've really been reading some good ones! And mostly they're all just random library finds--LOVE when that happens. But, I'm committed to Barrie Summy's monthly Book Review Club, and so...
I'm reviewing I, Coriander by Sally Gardner.
I have a bit of history with this book and author (a very little bit) in that I've read Sally Gadner's YA novel, The Red Necklace and enjoyed it very much. Finishing it, I looked up the author to see what else she had available and found I, Coriander. I was tempted, very tempted, but I didn't finally read Coriander's story until more than a year later.
First of all, the cover intrigued me greatly--all those exquisite, careful little details that come straight out of the story--and the little bits of blurb and reviews only solidified the book's appeal.
The story drew me in immediately, portraying Coriander's lovely life, beautiful, talented mother, and nurturing father in the years immediately preceding the dire circumstances of Cromwellian England. But this fairytale ends quickly, with only a hint of an unexplained, perhaps even magical, world to which Coriander's mother may have once belonged. Enter the evil stepmother. When Coriander's mother dies inexplicably, her father takes the advice of friends, marrying quickly to a seemingly solid woman with Puritanical values.
Despite the marriage, Coriander's father is viewed as a Royalist sympathizer and so, mired in grief, sails off, leaving Coriander behind with her new stepmother and an odious Puritan minister, who would have her change her name from Coriander to Ann.
Over the course of several years, Coriander must deal with the violence and uncertainty in two different worlds--her mother's and her father's--and come to a decision as to which she would belong.
This book is at once riveting historical fiction (I found myself holding my breath at times) and fantasy. Sally Gardner has a truly phenomenal talent for immersing her readers in another time and place. The touches of fantasy were light and woven carefully into the storyline, creating a world not only of magic but mystery as well. Beautifully written, this story stays with you long after you've turned the last page.