The Red Necklace
This book is a winner. Set during the French Revolution, the plot centers on a young Gypsy boy, Yann, who uses his mind-reading abilities and ventroquilism as a magician’s assistant. Their performance at the chateau of a decadent Marquis brings Yann into contact with the Marquis’ crippled and neglected daughter, Sidonie, and the Marquis’ mysterious, sinister friend, Count Kalliovski. Yann’s growing love for Sidonie and his efforts to help her fuel this intricate fantasy, taking the reader into the extreme excesses of French nobility and the resultant bloody excesses of the Revolution. The reader vividly experiences the extreme entitlement of the wealthy and the hopeless poverty of the peasantry, and, in the end, the fetid, squalid prisons of the time.
Gardner has woven a tense and believable fantasy into a setting of great danger and social turmoil. Kalliovski is surely one of the more evil characters to be found in young adult literature, and his mysterious relationship to both Yann and Sidonie and his menace to them are ever present and always threatening. His lecherous plans for Sidonie remain implicit until she is betrayed and imprisoned as the daughter of a nobleman, but even then the story doesn’t sink into sordidness. Suspenseful throughout, The Red Necklace builds to a thrilling climax. Young readers of historical fiction and fantasy should clamor for more. Highly recommended, ages 12 and up.