Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Book Review: The Fall of the Blade by Sue Reid

Isabelle is a thirteen year old aristocrat living in a grand chateau outside of the city of Paris. The French Revolution has already begun, and as the city of Paris turns violent and the safety of aristocrats is threatened, her family decides they must flee further into the French countryside. There, they are threatened with discovery, burdened by a lack of supplies, and faced with the prospect of being taken to prison or even executed. All the while, young Isabelle keeps a diary to record her fears for her life, family, and France.

The Fall of the Blade, written by Sue Reid, is part of Scholastic UK's My Story series, a collection of fictional diaries set throughout various time periods, written by young characters. Some of the My Story books overlap with the Dear America and My Name is America books published by the American Scholastic branch, but there are many books original to the UK series, including The Fall of the Blade. 

The story itself, which takes place in the midst of the more violent events of the French Revolution, was fairly exciting and had a good amount of action, particularly for younger readers. I thought it was an interesting touch to begin the story somewhat removed from the turmoil of Paris, because there was a sense of strained normalcy in Isabelle's life - at least in the beginning. As the book goes on, Isabelle is taken from the assumed safety of her chateau into hiding, prisons, and the streets of Paris.

I did enjoy Sue Reid's writing, which reflected the time period but was modern enough that young readers will have no problem understanding Isabelle's diary entries. I think adult readers might find Isabelle a little flat, because I never really got a feel for who the character was, which was unfortunate as her story was interesting. I also felt that the book was too short and that the ending was abrupt, leaving many threads unresolved. And unfortunately, the My Story series does not seem to feature the epilogues that are found in the Dear America series, which tell the reader what happened after the book ended. Perhaps this is to counteract reader complaints that they thought the Scholastic diaries were real? Simply a guess!

Despite some misgivings about the sudden end, I would recommend, The Fall of the Blade to anyone who enjoys "Scholastic diary" fiction, and is looking for a light read set during the revolution. It's also a good beginner book for younger readers, although it does naturally feature some violence.
I would also recommend Marie Antoinette: Princess at Versailles by Kathryn Lasky, part of the The Royal Diaries (or, in the UK, My Royal Story) series, as well as The Princess in the Tower by Sharon Stewart, part of the short-lived Scholastic Canada Beneath the Crown series.

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