Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Star of Kazan by Eva Ibbotson

Author: Eva Ibbotson
ISBN# 1405020547
388 pages

When Annika is found as a baby one June morning late in the 19th century, in a mountainside church, by a cook & a maid on their day off, this is just the beginning of an extraordinary tale that will take her away from Vienna, the city where she grows up, to distant Norland, seemingly with all her wishes coming true. But you should always be careful what you wish for! Along the way she meets La Rondine, who once lit up the stages of Europe & tells exotic tales of her adventurous life, there’s also a gypsy boy who rides an amazing horse, and then there’s the aristocracy – a far cry from her life as a kitchen girl!

When I picked up this book I knew absolutely nothing about it – all I knew was I was getting a hardback book for under £3 & that was a bargain if ever I saw one. I didn’t realise just how much of a bargain I was getting! This book had me enthralled from the very first page. The story might have been rather predictable, but I found I didn’t care a jot as I allowed myself to be carried along by the characters.

Ibbotson grew up in Vienna & it’s clear she loved it very much. Her description of this magical place is filled with such joy that you really feel she belongs there – and Vienna belongs to her! Every step of the way, I was drawn into the everyday lives of the Viennese during the time of Emperor Franz Joseph so that I could almost hear the clop of horses hooves & the rattle of the carriages.

The tone is never aimed downwards, despite being marketed towards children &, as it says on the back cover, this is an adventure for readers of all ages. The characters are drawn with such care that I could clearly picture every one of them, from Annika, to Ellie & Sigmund, to the three professors & beyond. I really cared about them, and it’s obvious that Ibbotson does too, like members of my own family – there’s such warmth there.

So, it doesn’t really matter that I could see what was coming several chapters ahead of time; what matters is how the characters get there – there’s a logic to it all that must be followed. All I care about is that I was thrilled by the pure pleasure this was to read from cover to cover.

Rating: 8/10


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