Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Tinder by Sally Gardner

The cover says it all: A snarling, snow-white werewolf with razor sharp teeth leaps over the frosty rooftops of a medieval town. This sums up the novel in my opinion - startling, dark and intense.

I'll start by saying that the artwork by David Roberts, which is sprinkled throughout Tinder, is very effective. Every drawing seems to emerge from the mist. They sneak up on you and before you realise what is happening, they've got their bony fingers around your throat.
The story begins with 18 year-old Otto Hundebiss, he's a deserter of the Thirty Years War (1618 - 1648). His decision to flee comes after seeing a vision of Death cross his path. Lost in a dense forest, wounded and wrestling with a series of fever-dreams, Otto is rescued and nursed back to health by a mysterious shaman.
Before releasing him, the shaman gives Otto a set of dice. As you'd assume, the dice aren't for the occasional game of Yahtzee, they are magic, and Otto relies on them to guide him through the entire novel.
Traveling through Mitteleuropa, he stumbles upon Safire, a beautiful redhead who's also on the run from a group of dastardly soldiers. They meet and fall in love, but, as good stories go, Safire is taken away and Otto finds himself on a quest of madness and self-destruction in order to get her back.

This is where things get really interesting. In his quest to find Safire, Otto is put through the gauntlet. He must outwit the deliciously evil Lady of the Nail, a woman that makes Eva Braun look like Mother Theresa. He must also survive werewolves, haunted castles, his own execution and so on.
During his journey he acquires a magical tinderbox. The tinderbox not only grants him any wish he wants, it also puts him in control of a series of werewolves. It is also safe to say that even though Otto is the "master" of these werewolves, subtlety is not in their vocabulary.

Otto, now bound to the tinderbox, begins to cave under the pressure of finding Safire without destroying himself in the process.

Tinder is a beautifully illustrated book with very dark undertones. That said, it is a teen book, Otto displays all of the frustrations, stubbornness and bad decision making that a typical teen would make in 2015. The only difference of course is that it's the 17th century and Otto doesn't have access to ye olde iPhone to assist him.

Tinder is a book that's meant to be read aloud, late at night by a roaring fire during a ferocious rainstorm with the branches of an ancient tree tapping against your window. Loved it.

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1 comment:

Sarah Stevenson said...

This sounds great! I will keep an eye out for it. :)