After reading Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy I decided this summer to read Pullman's four books about Sally Lockhart set in Victorian England and I'm glad I did. The books are an excellent read, and Pullman has enough changes in each book to stop them becoming repetitive.
This is the final book of the four. It has Jim as the main character, with most of the other characters from previous books (including Sally) hardly appearing. The setting of the story is also changed from the first three books - it is set in a small country in central Europe. The main characters are the upper classes from this small state, and one of the themes of the story is the relationship between Royalty and the Royal Subjects.
The story is expertly written with never a dull moment and an exciting climax.
on 31 October 2001
The first thing to note: while this is set in Sally Lockhard's world, and gives a starring role to her friend Jim, it's definitely not a Sally Lockhart book. Her part is limited to a couple of cameos at the beginning and end, and the knitting of a sweater that plays an important role in the story (I have to confess I find it hard to imagine Sally doing such a thing, but perhaps motherhood brings about strange changes... :-)
That said, previous reviewers who complained about Sally's absence are, I think, missing the point. This remains an excellent adventure story, and if all the attention was on Sally, we'd never get to know Jim and his co-adventurers better.
The story itself starts in London, but quickly moves to a small European kingdom called Razkavia. This is reminiscent of nothing so much as Anthony Hope's Ruritania (see his Prisoner of Zenda novels), and indeed the theme of an English commoner caught up in the affairs of minor european Royalty could have come straight from Hope's pen. Add an imprisoned prince, a crucial treaty, threatening foreign empires (Germany and Austria-Hungary), idealistic student-philosophers, a few swords and pistols, and steam-trains rushing through the snowy, forested night... and you have the recipe for an adventure story that will keep you up past bed-time while you read just one more chapter...
In short, ignore the complaints about Sally's absence. This story belongs to her friends, and they carry it off brilliantly.
on 19 August 2002
"The Tin Princess" is what, on TV, would be called a "spin-off" from the Sally Lockhart novels - there are some familiar characters but the focus is elsewhere.
In reality this is Pullman's take on the Ruritanian novel, and is typically uncompromising. Take a small country stuck between great powers and would *really* happen? If someone who never expected to inherit a throne found himself on it, how well would he *really* cope? Fortunately Pullman's answers include the necessary addition of people with courage and determination, and (necessarily) a great deal more luck than anyone deserves, and you end up with a good story. Good enough to lead this reader to look for sequels, though they would be very difficult to do successfully.
There are disappointments - some readers will be upset that Sally Lockhart hardly makes an appearance. More seriously the character from whose view we see the story, Becky, is not really the heroine - that position belongs to the unlikeliest character in the book, the "Tin Princess" herself, Adelaide once the downtrodden skivvy from "The Ruby in the Smoke". Becky learns about life, romance and herself - a little - but many readers must feel a bit cheated in not having her given a story of her own as well. There is also a problem in that one of the strands of the story - a physically passionate love affair - has to be handled very allusively in a book sold to younger readers, though Pullman does an excellent job.
For fans of the Ruritanian novel, the problem lies in Pullman's unwillingness to suspend the rules of history or psychology for the benefit of royalty - or for little states with good scenery.
So readers need to be warned - put your preconceptions aside before you start. Having done that, you are in for a treat. The writing is skillful, the plotting masterly and the pace breakneck. Pullman's compassion for all his characters - including the unsympathetic ones - remains as persuasive as ever. He also plays fair with the reader - this is a very good story - not a lesson in historical morality.
But it would be nice to have more about Becky - another book maybe, Mr Pullman?
on 21 September 2006
And by "Modern Readers" I mean all those sillys who can't be bothered to try and keep up with old-fashioned prose because they are too desperate to get to the action. Let me assure you from the start that getting to the action will not be a problem in THIS book. On the contrary, the novel opens with a bomb going off in a London suburb.
Becky Winter, hired to teach the "lady of the house" reading, writing and German is not a little surprised that her new employers are a target for anarchists, but she is even more surprised when she finds out that said employer is Crown Prince Rudolf of Razkavia, her native country. Little larger than an English county, it lies between two political giants of late 19th-century Europe: Germany and Austria-Hungary. Both Empires are all too eager to annex Razkavia, for the tin mines there would be very useful in building their armies. And hardly has Becky learned all this than she makes another new acquaintance: Jim Taylor, private detective and current right-hand-man to Prince Rudolf. But Jim's real loyalty lies not with Rudolf but Rudolf's wife: a cockney girl by name of Adelaide, for whom Jim and his best friend Sally Lockhart have been searching for ten years...
Its a good idea to read the first three Sally Lockhart books before you start "Tin Princess": Sally does not play a central role here, but Adelaide and Jim are much more interesting characters if you know about their background. Pullman pits them here against everyone from scheming diplomats to revolutionaries to Bismarck himself (via a pompous chamberlain and a bar brawl or two) - and they are fantastic. So is Pullman's writing: he evokes 19th-century Europe with amazing ease and style, and wonderful comic timing. Adelaide's Cockney English is excellently deployed to get the most laughs out of any situation, no matter how serious, and Jim is always a terrific protagonist (the scene in the cellar captures every aspect of him in three pages, without Pullman once drifting off into long-winded ruminations on his character - simply marvellous). Becky, from whose point of view much of the book is narrated, is also very good. She doesn't have Sally's fire, but then, who does?
It is the extraordinary story of people who are fighting to preserve what they believe in - Razkavia - in the face of overwhelming odds, written with all Pullman's considerable skill and ending with glorious heroism and the sense that the battle may be over, but the war is not. I know most people prefer well-rounded happy-ends, but I love books that - like this one - end with exciting possibilities...
on 16 August 2003
Philip Pullman has managed to capture readers imagination through his fantastic works and this book is no exception. It has everything a reader could ever want great characters a gripping plot and delightful twists. After I read The Tiger In The Well I thought Pullman would never be able to top it but i was very wrong because once i started reading The Tin Princess I didn't want to stop. I would recommened reading The Ruby In The Smoke, The Shadow In The North and The Tiger In The Well first as they make up the Sally Lockhart Trilogy (They are all great) The Tin Princess is a spinoff from them so it would do well to check them out as well. Any one who is unsure wether or not to buy this book should buy it as it has something for every reader.
on 18 March 2008
Before I start. I have to say the first three Sally Lockhart books (especially 2 and 3) were absolutly excellent (although I almost refused to read 3 after Phillip Pullmans choice of fate for certain main character!) However after having read The Tiger in the Well (which I struggled to put down) I settled down to The Tin Princess waiting to find out more about the excellent character of Mr Goldberg. Unfortunatly before I had finsihed the first couple of chapters he'd gone off to America taking Miss Lockhart with him!
I really had to force myself through the remainder of the book I'm sorry to say. The plot about mysterious brother the kept me interested enough to finish it but I think the most trying thing about it was how awful the character of Adelaide is. The only time we really heard her speak in privet was to be horrible to poor Becky.
Can we have one about Dan Goldberg or perhaps Harriet please Phillip?
on 19 March 2002
This was supposed to be the sequal to The Tiger in the Well. That is a complete lie. Although The Tin Princess is a great book, it does not have much to do with Sally herself. It starts out with a young language tutor, Becky Winter. Little does she know that her new pupil is a royal Princess of Razkavia, a small country sqeezed in between Germany and Austria-Hungary. Shortly after their lesson begins, bloodthisty assasins unsucesfuliy bomb the house, and Becky gets caught up in a cruel world, of murder, politics and love. The Princess Adelaide, insists that Becky come with her, after the crown Prince of Razkavia is shot, making her crown queen. Becky becomes her translator, and good companion. As thier frendship grows, so do their enimies, and one friend by another, they are betrayed, to bloodthirsty Germany, and they must fight with all their power and will to keep Razkavia free.
on 7 April 2004
A master piece! Philip Pullman has brought together every aspect of Sally to give a spectacular read. From start to finish the book is packed with excitement and mystery.
The depth of the story gives it an individuality that speperates it from the other books on the shelves. From the first sentence, Pullman drags you into Sally's world and it is impossible to put down. Every detail that is needed, has been put into this masterpiece that should be read by anyone. This is a book that shouldn't wait for a rainy day. You can read it over and over and still recieve surprises that you missed. I would recommend this book to anyone.
on 19 May 2008
This is not the genre of books that I usually read but I was hooked from the first page.
The quality of Phillip Pullman's writing meant that I was instantly transported to firstly Victorian London, then Razkavia, a country that I almost feel patriotic about.
I now look forward to reading the preceeding three Sally Lockhart books.
on 31 August 2000
This book is absolutely flawless.It is among the best books I have ever read and I have read many books!It starts with a bomb outside a house of a eastern european prince who is cowering from his duties in London.Becky has been hired to tutor the princes cockney bride whom he married secretly and she is shocked to find out that they are the Prince and Princess of Raskavia which strangely happens to be the country of her birth.After the death of the the princes brother he is drawn to his home country for the state funeral,and with him comes Jim Taylor whom you may recognise as being a predominant figure in the first three books in the Sally Lockheart Quartet working as his bodyguard.As the hapless prince and his cockney bride are drawn into the web of betrayl in their home country they come to meet at dangerous quarters the Tiger in the Well.....