tinderSally Gardner, with artwork by David Roberts
(Indigo, an imprint of Orion Children’s Books)

Otto has been a soldier for most of his life, and tired of war and wounded, he nonetheless makes a final stand by defying Death. His escape takes him to a dark world of magic, mystery and blood-thirsty beasts. He also meets Safire, beautiful and mysterious and with whom he falls head over heels in love. But the path to happiness is not a dark and bloody one, and Otto must learn the powers of the tinderbox and the secrets of the wolves. Will he survive?

After yesterday’s review of Taschen’s beautiful edition of the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen, it seemed apt to follow this by this stunning retelling of one of Andersen’s tales, The Tinderbox.  How this is not simply a retelling, as Sally Gardner, while keeping the medium of the fairy tale, weaves a powerful and chilling tale about the repercussions of war on the human soul, which will resonate as much today as it would have done in the Thirty Years’ War, the original setting of the tale.

tinder2Tinder is simply splendid. Eerie, cruel, ominous, bloody, it is the perfect manipulated fairy-tale for teenagers and will appeal to those who love a dark, gothic-horror tale. Illustrated fiction for older readers is still a rather rare occurrence, supposedly because many will dismiss illustrated fiction as being for apprentice readers. This is so unfortunate, and thankfully David Roberts showcases here how incredibly powerful illustrated fiction for older readers can be. His illustrations are not simply there to ornate the text; they are intricately woven into the tale, and bring the already sinister atmosphere to an even more nightmarish level.
The story is crafted exceedingly well, and Sally Gardner’s frank voice, just as in Maggot Moon, is uncompromising. Reading Tinder, the reader will find himself drawn into the dark cold forest, engulfed in thick fog, feeling, fearing. It is an incredibly vivid story, but beware, this is most definitely a book for older readers only not only because of its bleak and violent setting but also because it is full of yearning, and lust.

Tinder is one of the most powerful and atmospheric books I have read this year. Sally Gardner is undoubtedly one of the most talented authors in the children’s book world today.


Source: review copy sent by publisher