Tinder - Sally Gardner (Author) and David Roberts (Illustrator)

A young soldier, a captive princess, witches, wolves and Death walk hand in hand in COSTA AWARD winner Sally Gardner's exquisitely written new novel inspired by the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale, THE TINDERBOX, illustrated by David Roberts.

Otto Hundebiss is tired of war, but when he defies Death he walks a dangerous path. A half beast half man gives him shoes and dice which will lead him deep into a web of dark magic and mystery. He meets the beautiful Safire - pure of heart and spirit, the scheming Mistress Jabber and the terrifying Lady of the Nail. He learns the powers of the tinderbox and the wolves whose master he becomes. But will all the riches in the world bring him the thing he most desires?

Fairy tales are often the cruellest stories of all.


Based on The Tinderbox by Hans Christian Andersen and illustrated exquisitely by David Roberts, Gardner's latest book will be highly appealing to fans of fairy tales and magical narratives alike. The book really is the whole package, from text to illustrations, so it is no surprise that it was shortlisted for both the Greenaway and Carnegie medals. Though an homage to The Tinderbox, Gardner's tale does make some significant departures, including the fact that her interpretation was influenced by conversations with soldiers who had returned from Iraq and Afghanistan and who suffered from PTSD and who had difficulties adjusting to civilian life. For this reason, Gardner decided to adapt her story into a war narrative, which she set during the Thirty Years War (1618-1648).

While I have seen others note that the characters themselves are not particularly well-rounded, I would point out that this is actually a relatively common aspect of fairy tales. It is the events and setting that really drive these types of stories forward. That being said, the writing is swift and well-paced, providing readers with a series of events that will delight and titillate. Though a fairy tale above all else, the book is perfectly balanced for audiences from middle-grade to adult. There is magic. There are ghosts. There are witches and werewolves, armies and mobs, blood and guts and nightmares. And of course, there is love.

The writing is enhanced with drawings from David Roberts, and they are as disconcerting as they are stunning. Rendered in black, white, and splashes of red, these illustrations are arresting and beautifully complement Gardner's prose (see the example above). Overall, the setting and links to PTSD and the effects of war are intriguing, and the darkness translates well into the fairy tale style. As Gardner herself writes in the Author's Note, "A fair tale is a fascinating medium in which to examine conflict, love and loss - for all good fairy stories have dark and light at their heart."

Highly Recommended

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