The Red Necklace
Sally Gardner




Paris 1789. While the aristocracy dine, dance, gossip and gamble their way to disaster, the poor and starving dream of revolution.

Enter the boy Yann Margoza, destined to be a hero; Ttu the dwarf, his friend and mentor; Sido, unloved daughter of the foolish Marquis de Villeduval; and the sinister Count Kalliovski, who holds half the aristocracy in thrall to him.

The drama moves from Paris to London and back, as the Revolution gathers momentum, and the hope of libery and the dream of equality are crushed beneath the wheel of terror. Too many secrets, too many murders, and the blade of the guillotine is yet to fall...

"Gardner treads a difficult line very skilfully. The period of the French revolution and especially the Terror which followed it are full of horrendous violence and brutality, and Madame Guillotine casts her frightful shadow over everything... The plot is full of action... The end is full of surprises and the last page drops a strong hint that a sequel is on its way. Being anxious to know what happens next is one of the indications that we've been reading a rattling good story." Adele Geras, The Guardian

"Exquisitely constructed...sophisticated, unpatronising....this book is a challenging read but also extremely rewarding. With vivid descriptions and fluid prose, this tale of magic, murder and madness brings 18th-century Europe to life on the page." Waterstone's Books Quarterly
Adéle , from The Henrietta Barnett School London

 

This is based in the time of the French Revolution around a boy called Yann Margour. He has a mentor called Tetu, who is a gypsy. Throughout the book, Yann discovers his past and finds true love. He also has to save his life and that of his friends.

 

This was a good book. It had new things always happening and kept you on your toes. There were vivid descriptions with a clear story plot. It was easy to tell when something had already happened and when it was happening now. It gave a completely new view on gypsies - from cheap fortune tellers into magical beings. I liked the way everything was unclear at the beginning but over time we start to realise the truth behind Tetu’s power and Yann’s past.

 

However, there were a lot of characters with similar names which made it hard to tell them apart. It was also uncertain which side of the Revolution Yann was on. This to me was annoying and frustrating but this may have been the effect that the author wanted.

 

This was a good book as it showed different views of the Revolution, from the point of view of a young boy. It had vivid imagery with an exciting story plot.

Arian, from The Henrietta Barnett School London

The story is principally set in and near Paris between 1789 and 1792. Yann Margoza, a travelling entertainer and mind reader, meets Sido, the unloved child of the vain and foolish Marquis de Villeduval. She helps Yann to escape from the murderous Count Kalliovski. After being educated in London, he returns years later to rescue her from the Count’s evil plans.

The main character, Yann Margoza, is a gypsy who has spent his childhood as part of a magic show touring Europe, with a gypsy dwarf, Tetu, as his guardian. The villain, Count Kalliovski, is quite ruthless and then there is a young woman, Sido, the daughter of a loathsome father who is not quite what he seems at first. I was surprised at what I found with this book. I don’t usually find historical fiction is a genre that I usually read.

 My favourite idea that was in the book was the signature of Count Kalliovski, which was the red necklace ... The Red Necklace is not only an adventure story but a vivid picture of Paris in turmoil and of a large cast of memorable characters.

Ava, from The Henrietta Barnett School London

The Red Necklace is a thrillingly told tale of the French Revolution, in which the aristocracy burnt like wax candles, very bright but slowly melting, and in which the civilians are the angry steam of boiling water, ready for revenge.

 

The story is centred about three main characters. Meet the boy, Yann Margoza, hero of the story, who fights with bravery and with passion, and with an eventual unexpected grace. He is a boy magician – a gypsy? Maybe.

 

His tutor and mentor: the character Têtu, physically a dwarf amongst men but mentally so strong that he can move objects without touching them.

 

Sido is a young girl, awkward in her aristocratic background and with only an unloving father and an uncanny limp of a walk for company. Everything changes the night that she meets Yann.

 

Together, and through a story of love and subtle cleverness, these three characters are drawn together to play their part in the French Revolution, and to vanquish the deadly villain: Count Kalliovski.

 

This is a story of spellbinding magic, in which Gardner weaves the lives of our main characters, developing them as they mature. They are always changing, improving, or in Kalliovski’s case, worsening.

 

The most character-development throughout the whole book happened within the boy Yann Margoza. At the beginning of the book, he is introduced as an unassuming boy, perhaps one that you might pass in a busy street, and, had you happened to gaze upon his face, only remember him for the fact that he possessed a rather elegant face, ‘Yann had a sharp, intelligent face, olive skin, a mop of jet-black hair, and eyes dark as midnight, with two stars shining in them.’ He is a talented boy, and very clever, ‘born with a gift for knowing what people were thinking, and an uncanny ability to throw his voice,’ also born with the ability to learn extremely fast.

 

....

 

This book is a romantic adventure. We see Yann pushed to his limits, but he is brave and overcomes his fears.

 

I love this book for its interweaving plot, extremely complicated, but the author still makes clear that, through intricate descriptions of what drives her characters to make their decisions, it is the characters that we are to concentrate on.

 

A true ten out of ten.

 

 

Chloe, from The Henrietta Barnett School London

The Red Necklace is set the time of the French Revolution with the action switching between Paris and London.

 

The story centres round a boy called Yann who has inherited special powers from his gypsy ancestry. He works as part of a performing trio whose knowledge of the evil Count Kalliovski's past drags them into a dangerous game of murder, deceit and heroism.

 

The fictional story of Yann's adventures set against the real events of the French Revolution is a clever device. In addition the magical element of Yann’s powers lends some light relief without overpowering the dramatic events of the story. Furthermore the unresolved ending gives the reader something to think about after they have finished the book.

 

Overall this is a gripping read.

Daniel, from University College School London

The year is 1789 and France is on the brink of revolution. Yann Margoza, a theatre entertainer with bewitching powers, soon finds himself heavily involved in the confusion and corruption which lurks behind the class system in pre-revolution France. The story begins with a fast crescendo of shock to the reader with the death of the great magician Topolain, much to the distress of Yann and his good friend and father figure - Têtu.

Quickly, upon forseeing the dangers and repercussions which follow the murder of Topolain by the mysterious and spectral Count Kalliovski, Têtu sends Yann to be educated in the land which lies across the Channel, England, where Yann begins his adventure. In this well-written story of murder and magic any reader would want to find out more… 

 

The main body of the story is set in the enchanting city of Paris, where the small, dark streets provide an excellent backdrop for the deeply intriguing side of the story. The murderous ‘sans culottes’ and the patriotic, rowdy citizens are essential to some of the most important events in the book.

 

The section of the story which takes place in London comes at the perfect time and, subsequently, allows a break from the intensity of events in Paris. It is also in this section that the reader gets to know Yann better as he reforms from street urchin and entertainer to the true, respectable gentleman he is.

 

The characters in the story are colourful and flamboyant, each with a role and mannerism which perfectly suits them. Every aspect has been carefully considered and creatively depicts the persona which revolves around it. The masterful creation of characters is certainly a skill which the author, in my eyes, has mastered.

 

In my opinion, this book has depth and emotion, which when fused together by the author depict the era perfectly. The story is fast moving, imaginative and rich with colour and versatility in virtually every category. The parts of the book which keep you guessing have you on the edge of your seat until the very end and so add to the inspiring thrill. I found this book to be excellent and would easily allow it a rating of 10 out of 10.

 

Eniola, from The Henrietta Barnett School London

Set in the days of Louis XVI in the city of opulence and poverty, aristocracy and peasants that is Paris, things are changing and the people of Paris are about to embark on an era of terror and misery; for it is 1789 and the Revolution is coming!

 

This fictional historical novel is based around the main characters - Yann Margoza, a fourteen year old boy born with special talents and who is yet to realize the full extent of these talents, is mentored by the ever elusive Têtu, a gypsy dwarf, also with special talents who can move objects at will like an experienced sorcerer, who has kept him from harm’s way all of his life and is the one to make Yann learn of his parentage and to help him realize and understand his talents, is assistant to his old friend Topolain the magician whose fate looks  bleak, and together they travel all over France performing.

 

The past few months they had been staying at the Rue de Temple performing every night to the packed theatre with their special performer the wooden Pierrot, an automaton that Têtu worked every night.

 

Other important characters throughout the book include the foolish Marquis de Villeduval who is haunted by his dark secrets and his extravagant ways get the better of him; the evil Count Kalliovski also with dark secrets and a dangerous past tainted with gypsy blood, and caught up in their calculating ways is Sidonie de Villeduval, also known as Sido, who is thought to be the Marquis's daughter, and lives a life of sorrow at the hands of the Marquis who has never loved her and with her mother dead has no one but Yann. Maitre Tardieu, the de Villeduval's loyal lawyer, is also caught up in the whirlwind of events that follow and is a mousy and timid character.

 

My favourite character is definitely Yann because of how he overcomes his problems and difficulties, how he saves lives, how he adapts to different situations, how he never gives up and because of all the positive changes in himself from when he was a fourteen year old boy right till the end of the story.

 

The book begins with the traveling entertainers who after one of the supernatural acts are summoned to the Marquis's elaborate and luxurious chateau [near] Paris where the Marquis is throwing one of his grand balls, and the ever-cunning Count Kalliovski has brought them to the chateau not only to entertain but with a hidden agenda.

 

Throughout the book the enthralling and gripping encounters with the count and the magicians get even more intense... with this book there is never a dull moment ...

 

Throughout the book the only character that goes through a significant real change is Yann, as he becomes a gentlemen, a learned man, he learns of his magical talents, how to reach his full potential, and he grows into a brave hero who begins the story and ends the story.

 

I think that Sally Gardener portrays the characters’ emotions well by using a lot of the finer details to describe their thoughts and building up their character throughout the book to give an explanation [of] their feelings and to be able to make sense of them.... I also think that Sally Gardener gets her points across very much in the same ways that she conveys emotions in her characters - subtly but with a lot of depth and using very intriguing details to paint a picture or an opinion in the reader’s mind ...

 

I agree [that] 'The novel also paints vivid, convincing pictures of the Revolution: characters glimpse the massed thousands of Parisian women marching to Versailles, pitchforks in hand, demanding bread, and mobs setting upon suspected aristocrats’ [because] very strong and key historical references are made throughout the book like the mobs of peasants and women; the burning of aristocrats’ homes and the resentment towards them; the order of events historically; the disgrace of the King and Queen's attempt to escape and the situations in the prisons. Also at the end of the story, at the back of the book, there are a few pages about the historical background.

 

This is a suspenseful and complex story with tons of love and affection yet massacres and blood, and I recommend this book to anyone looking for a clever and exciting read.

Georgia , from The Henrietta Barnett School London

The Red Necklace is the story of Yann Margoza, a fifteen/seventeen year old (the book skips out two years of plot) gypsy living in Paris during the French Revolution. Yann and his guardian, a dwarf called Tetu who is also a gypsy, both have magical powers (telepathy and telekinesis, respectively). Their magic act attracts the unwanted attentions of a Count Kalliovski, the villain, who has various undesirable connections with both Yann and Tetu's past. Another important character is twelve/fourteen year old Sido de Villeduval, the daughter of a Marquis, heir to a fortune, and unwilling fiancé of Kalliovski.

 

The book has a very large number of characters, which does make the plot extremely tedious, along with complicated connections, an excessive number of scene changes and the fact that people getting shot very rarely results in them dying. However, it was still a pleasant read, and I would still recommend it, despite the fact it is a blatant fairy tale. The use of adverbs and descriptive verbs was very interesting; they were badly overused, yet you hardly noticed, and it still enhanced the reading experience. An example of this is in the sentence "It scorched his flesh before piercing through his skin and lodging in his shoulder." This is essentially three sequences joined by a couple of conjunctions, and though sounding a little laboured, is a wonderful example of my point and of the descriptive content of the book.

 

I found that Sido was the only character that showed any change during the course of the story. Though all other characters began the story fully confident and set in their ways, Sido began the story timid and extremely keen on winning her father's affection. Throughout the book she progressively becomes more spirited through a combination of meeting Yann and her hatred of Kalliovski. The fact she is the only girl in the book may have influenced her personality and ability to change, as every other female character was killed off too quickly to even show any personality.

 

On the subject of characters, I have found it obvious the book is targeted at girls of Sido's age, since aspects of the plot (namely the romance between Sido and Yann) classify it as girl material, and, as mentioned previously, Sido is the only female character. She is also the character with which the readers are supposed to relate to, and various aspects of her life have been woven in to fit, such as not being loved by parent/s, loving someone who you will never get/never see again, not being pretty, having to pay for the mistakes of others, etc. Since we are the same age for half of the book, I related best to her, though not that well.

 

The author Sally Gardener is more well known for her fantasy children's picture books and short stories, and I grew up loving some of her self written fairy tales. This book reflects her old writing in that, though based around a real event, it maintains the feel of such fiction. Take, for example, the following extract: "She reminded him of a china doll, with long eyelashes that fluttered like a butterfly's wings, and an abundance of dark hair that cascaded across the pillows." This description (of the first impression Yann gets of Sido when he sees her from the first time) is particularly delicate, very fragile, hence the reference to china dolls. Again, we see an overuse of descriptive verbs, which is why this book is so clearly classified as fairy tale, since in The Declaration, though the plot is virtually identical in every way, the aforementioned verbs are absent, giving it an entirely different mood.

 

In conclusion, I found this book a little tiresome because of all the complications of the plot, but overall I enjoyed reading it, though I think it would do better [if] adapted for younger readers. On the whole I would say The Red Necklace is worth reading.

Meera, from The Henrietta Barnett School London

This book was based during the time of the French Revolution. It has quite a lot of characters but the main ones are Yann, Sido and Count Kalliovski. The book involves a lot of magic, which Yann can do. He has to rescue Sido from the clutches of Count Kalliovski.

 

This book started off really well and I couldn’t put it down right from the beginning. It was non-fiction when it described the revolution and fiction when it described Yann’s magic. The blend of these two types worked really well as it was very original.

 

My favourite character in this book was Count Kalliovski, this is because he was such a well-described and unique person. I thought it was really clever how he could own people and control them.

 

The plot for this book was really good as it was very exciting and all the characters linked into each other.

 

I thought that apart from the Count the other characters were a bit dull, but as he was so interesting I didn’t really mind.

 

I enjoyed reading this book and I would recommend it to other children. 

Oscar, from University College School London

It is 1789 and the French Revolution is about to begin. In Paris two people that form a popular double-act - a boy, Yann, and his dwarf tutor, Têtu – are caught up in it all. In a time when no-one can be trusted and one word can be fatal, mistakes cannot afford to be made. Unfortunately for them they just have, by recalling something that they shouldn’t have in front of Count Kalliovski – a malevolent and cunning man who holds more power than almost anyone else in France. This book follows Têtu and Yann’s attempt to rescue Sido de Villeduval, a kindly but nevertheless doomed young aristocratic lady, and stay safe from the Count.

 

Like A Tale of Two Cities the story flits between Paris and London and shows the effects that the Revolution can have on the unfortunate people who are in the way by chance. But even in the desperate times, some individuals still do help Yann on both sides of the Channel and in doing so risk their lives. A slightly unusual element to the story is the magical powers of the gypsies of which Têtu is an example. Although unconventional it does provide an interesting way of expressing the difference (or at least perceived difference) of the cultures then.

 

Yann definitely makes a good hero and indeed all the characters are rather likeable and engaging, providing us with a perfect vantage point of life before, during and after the Revolution, showing the effects on people from a vast array of different positions, classes and backgrounds. The story is told in a delightful way and follows Yann’s exiting life brilliantly. All in all a wonderful book appealing to everyone’s tastes.

Radha, from The Henrietta Barnett School London

This novel is based on the French revolution and is a book of many emotions. This book includes every bit of how to hate someone right up to how you can love them.

 

A young gypsy called Yann Margoza has quite a fortunate life travelling with a dwarf called Tetu who has been trusted to look after him. They are magicians in Paris and have the misfortune of meeting a count Kalliovski. Kalliovski is a tight malicious mean piece of work, and anyone who has borrowed so much as a penny from him is dead.  Kalliovski has some dark secrets which only Tetu knows and Kalliovski wants him dead.

 

This thrilling story is taken to London as Tetu thinks it is too dangerous for Yann [in France] and Yann stays in London for three years. While Yann has been in London the revolution has started. A girl called Sido is right in the middle of it. Sido is a lovely charming girl who has a dad who doesn’t love her and a mum who died years back. Yann has made a decision to come back to France to save Sido his love, who is stuck in jail and to kill Kalliovski.

 

This novel is full of dark and dangerous secrets but also has a touch of magic to make it all the more exciting. This novel is full of suspense and lives you hanging to read the next page. Overall this is a fantastic novel which I would recommend to anybody to read. It is a wonderful read and I promise you won’t be let down.

Sally, from The Henrietta Barnett School London

The Red Necklace is about a young boy, Yann Margoza, who works at the theatre doing magic. He is in the care of a dwarf called Tetu and travels with a magician. They are invited to a dinner party where the story begins when the magician is murdered by the villain of the book, Count Kalliovski, and they meet a young girl called Sid, the daughter of a mad count. Yann is drawn to the girl and later on in the story saves her from marrying the evil Count Kalliovski and eventually falls in love with her.

When I picked up the book, I really didn’t think I would enjoy it at all. I immediately thought it was going to be boring with too many historic details and no adventure. However I couldn’t have been more wrong. The story had passion, romance, adventure, friendship and love, and the characters were brought alive by the excellent description and setting. The book is set very well with period features and allows the reader to really learn a lot about the French revolution. I really felt like I was going through everything the characters felt and saw.

The storyline kept me on the edge of my seat with something new and exciting happening on every page. However, although there was a lot going on, each part of the story kept me from putting down the book. Although the book includes magic, it doesn’t seem like an unrealistic story because it is nothing too fairy-tale like.

The characters are very different and by the end of the book you feel like you know each and every one. The villain of the story, Count Kalliovski, was perfectly described and they way he acted and what he said gave the impression of someone you hated, yet feared.

It was an amazing book and a joy to read.   
Tom, from University College School London

The Red Necklace is set during the French Revolution in 1789. The ideals of the revolution – fraternity, liberty and equality – are beginning to fade into a sea of blood. Our hero, Yann Maragoza, is part of a stage-act and his life seems set out ahead of him; but when his act is invited to perform at a chateau, by a mysterious – and boringly evil – Count Kalliovski, everything becomes dangerous. He begins the fight to defeat Kalliovski, and save Sido – the daughter of a foolish and cruel Marquis – from the clutches of the count. What follows is a gripping story of magic, love and hate.

 

The plot is gripping and complicated: with innumerable unexpected twists and turns, at times it is overly complicated, but generally it manages to be comprehensible. All the characters are pretty weak – painfully clichéd and stereotypical; Yann is the brave, noble hero; Sido is, let’s be honest here, the damsel in distress; and Kalliovski is the evil villain. However, they do somehow manage to be very likeable, and don’t completely let the plot down.

 

The Red Necklace is a very well-written book, and though the characters are predictable and boring, the plot manages to keep them alive. It also provides a lot of information about the French Revolution, and is very interesting on a factual level. This is an exciting and highly enjoyable book, if not the most fascinating insight into the human mind. Well worth the read.