Book Review: I, Coriander, by Sally Gardner


In this exceptionally
well-crafted tale, Coriander tells the story of her childhood in
seventeenth-century London, and of her discovery that she has inherited
magical powers from her mother, who was a fairy princess. But her
mother’s sudden death brings on a dark time for Coriander, and after
mourning her beloved mother and dealing with the disappearance of her
father and the wrath of her evil stepmother, Coriander finds herself
locked in a chest with no hope of escape and no will to survive. But
when a bright light beckons to her, it is then that Coriander’s journey
truly begins. Beautifully written, this magical and luminous story is
destined to become a children’s classic.


Magical, beautiful, and lyrical.  I, Coriander was well written and fantastically told. This is a fairytale with complex characters and intricate plot lines.  

While it may not be completely historically accurate, it is a fun glimpse into the past as you follow Coriander through her childhood, and her many discoveries about her mother and herself.  

Coriander is an intelligent, whimsical girl that is full of love and goodness.  She loves her father and the many friends that help her throughout the story.  The book was unique and interesting in so many ways.  I especially loved the seven candles which she used to write her story by.  The alligator added an interesting element, as did her mother’s shadow, and the event of being locked in the chest and finding herself in fairyland.  Large chunks of Coriander’s life are skipped because our world and the fairyland world run on different clocks.  Every time Coriander goes to fairyland, a few years would pass in our world.

The characters of Master Thankless, Danes, Hester, and Gabriel are all beautiful in their own way.  I love their selflessness and inner goodness.  They truly care for Coriander and each other and go through great lengths to help one another out.  

There are several bad guys in this book, including the ever wicked stepmother named Maud and her preacher friend, Arise Fell.  These two are particularly disturbing and terrifying.  Maud is horrid to the core, and Arise is a deranged old man with a twisted perception about God.  Rosmore, the evil fairy queen, is not as complex as Maud or Arise, but adds that magical quality to the story and provides a motive behind the entire plot.

Feminism is a topic that is brought up a few times.  Gardner mentions how people in the 1650s thought that it was a waste for a girl to learn to read or speak another language because women have feeble minds.  Coriander also talks about the freedom that comes from wearing breeches instead of an apron which ties a woman to house and home.

The recommended age is 9-12 years, but I would lean more to the older side of that age group.  There are large portions of the book that are pretty dark.  There is abuse, death, and even murder that happen.  The writing style is also a little advanced for younger children.  They might have a difficult time understanding the characters, the situations, and the different worlds.    

I gave this book four and a half stars.  It was a beautiful fairytale that you could read several times over.  The only thing that I did not like about it was that the ending of the book was too perfect.  Every character’s story was wrapped up and tied with a neat little bow.

Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Publication date: 8/18/2005
Pages: 288
Age range: 9 – 12 Years

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