Do you ever pick up a book and actually shake with the anticipation of it being as good as the author's previous books and then as soon as you start reading it you never want it to end? Well, that's how I felt about The Silver Blade.
In this sequel to The Red Necklace, we are reacquainted with Yann Margoza, the young Romany magician and Sidonie de Villeduval, the young aristocrat orphan as well as a host of other familiar characters we have grown to love or hate, including the dwarf Tetu and the formidable Count Kalliovski. It is March 1794, in the midst of the Reign of Terror where distrust and degradation prevail.
It is indeed "the best of times", "the worst of times" and Sally Gardner succeeds in portraying the best and worst of human nature in this dark, magical tale. The "best" is represented by the selfless heroism of Yann who helps aristocrats escape the spectre of the guillotine whilst the "worst" is the very palpable evil of Count Kalliovski who resides in a twilight world in the catacombs under the city, spinning his dark threads and relishing the depravity and corruption which pervades post-revolutionary Paris.
It's a story about good versus evil, a love story, a story about friendship and loyalty and it also gives us an insight into an historical period of great turmoil and change. There is magic, romance, a hint of gothic coupled with vivid vignettes of Parisian life in all its post-revolutionary squalor. The writing is beautiful, never forced and everything is cleverly woven together like an intricate tapestry.
I would urge any fans of well written historical fiction aged 9 to 99 to read The Silver Blade and to succumb to the seduction of this master storyteller. It could be read as a stand-alone but you will get a much richer reading experience by reading The Red Necklace first.