Before the Blog Review – Tinder – Sally Gardner

Title – Tinder – Sally Gardner

Illustrated by David Roberts

Publisher –Indigo

Originally posted – and Booklikes

Read – 27-31 October 2013


“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; in this exquisite novel Sally Gardner writes about great love and great loss.”

4 of 5 stars

I received an advance copy of this book from in exchange for a review.

Otto Hundebiss is 18, a soldier in the 30 years war since he was 14. He’s seen his family slaughtered and killed his fair share of soldiers and civilians. One fog filled morning he sees the Spector of Death walking towards him, the ghosts of dead comrades and enemies walking behind him.

Escaping Death he runs into the forest, soon loosing consciousness due to his wounds. He awakes to be faced by a strange man wearing clothes that make him look like a beast. This half beast half man treats his wounds and before he departs gives Otto dice he must use to show him which direction to take next.

Throwing the dice Otto sets off on his journey into the unknown, going deeper into the forest where dangers, both human and animal, are always present. He soon comes across two mercenaries and, driven by hunger is contemplating how he can overcome both of them in his weak state. Whilst he watches them, waiting for them to fall asleep he sees a man. At this Otto steps out to fight the soldiers too. To his horror the man appears to turn into a wolf, chasing after the soldiers. Otto is left in fear, especially when he hears cries of terror from deeper in the woods. He soon runs off into the forest.

It is here he meets Safire, a girl with flame red hair and with whom he falls in love with. She soon vanishes and he sets off in search of her. On his journey he comes into contact with the Lady of the Nail, a malevolent sorceress who tricks him into facing three wolves to recover a tinderbox. But what is so special about this plain old tinderbox and how can it help him find Safire?

This story is based on the fairy tale The Tinderbox by Hans Christian Anderson. I am not familiar with this fairy tale but after reading Tinder I will be seeking it out.

This is a deliciously dark tale. It has an ethereal quality to it and not just because it is a tale of werewolves and magic. Yes it has a love story in it and yes werewolves are involved but this is no Twilight.

The author’s use of imagery is brilliant. I could easily imagine the fog filled battlefronts, dark forests and narrow streets of Safire’s home city. The final published version will contain 100 pages of illustrations by David Roberts. The sample illustrations in the proof copy show how good these will be. They perfectly matched my imagination which shows the talent of the the storyteller and the illustrator.

This is labelled as a YA book. There is some language and are some scenes that may not be suitable for the younger end of this age range but I feel that this book would appeal to older readers just as much and will appeal to readers of both genders.

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