Tinder by Sally Gardner
Shelf worth: 5/5
In winter, and certainly once Christmas is on the way, I just want to read stories with magic about them. I'd heard good things about Gardner already, and Tinder is just a whoosh of magic, beauty and cruel, confident storytelling.
Loosely based on The Tinderbox by Hans Christian Andersen, this story follows Otto Hundebiss, an 18-year-old soldier who has seen too much horror in his short life to want to stay in the war he is fighting. Running, quite literally, from Death, he encounters a magical man who heals him, and gives him a set of dice to navigate his way through life and the forests that he finds himself in.
"Flakes of snow began to fall. They sparkled like diamonds and all the unknown secrets of darkness became soft in the blue of moonshine so that the forest was transformed into a magical realm."
Gardner owns words. They are her bitch. There were so many paragraphs or lines where I gasped out loud. This is a very swoonsome book. It's helped by the design; a marvellous coming together of gorgeous font, page lay out - paragraphs are sometimes printed on glowing black sections - and extraordinary illustrations by David Roberts, in black, white and occasionally red.
It took me a couple of pages to get into Gardner's style, but once I was I succumbed entirely. I once went to a storytelling night held by the Crick Crack Club, and this has that same intoxicating combination of the unexpected, folklore and gorgeous imagery. From robber caves lined with furs and gold, to terrifying villains - you'll never look at your nails in the same way again - this is a beautiful book in every way you can imagine. Happy December reading.
I also read:
Having put down Brian K Vaughan's Y: The Last Man series for a while, I got back into it this week and zoomed through the remaining books. A brilliant, funny exploration of a post-apocalyptic world with only one man left, although the ending peters out somewhat.
This week I re-read:
My friend Elizabeth Jenner's short story It Snows They Say On The Sea. Like Gardner, she has a magical way with words and this really is the most spellbinding story. A couple spend a week working opposite shift patterns, and this marks the observations of the husband. Beautiful.