Tuesday, 21 May 2013
The Star of Kazan - Eva Ibbotson Review
Genre: Historical, Fantasy, YA
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Blurb: Annika has never had a birthday. Instead she celebrates her Found Day, the day a housemaid and a cook to three eccentric Viennese professors found her and took her home. There, Annika has made a happy life in the servants' quarters, surrounded with friends, including the elderly woman next door who regales Annika with stories of her performing days and her countless admirers - especially the Russian count who gave her the legendary emerald, the Star of Kazan. And yet, Annika still dreams of finding her true mother. But when a glamorous stranger arrives claiming to be Annika's mother, and whisks her away to a crumbling, spooky castle, Annika discovers that all is not as it seems in her newfound home...
I loved this book, and it's easy to see why. It was extraordinarily refeshing and well able to withstand passing trends - it's a classic book for any age, because the subplots reveall themselves more on each reading. Having said that, it was still a very simple story, perfect just the way it was.
I was impressed by the degree of subtlety with which Ibbotson presented this quaint, old-fashioned story. I loved the good old narrative story-telling. It's different, but it suits this book perfectly. The writing really played to its strengths, with the details serving to illustrate the enchanting world being created. I ususally only consider world-building when reviewing dystopians and the like, but the setting here begs admiration.
It was Vienna as I'd never seen it before, a place full lof magic and intrigue. It was descibed so well that I wanted to experience it myself. The Lipizzaners, royal horses, were an excellent touch among many. Flavoured by Annika's childish excitement and enthusiasm, they were simply a delight to read about.
I loved the rich cast of characters. The Professors had to be among my favourites, and they reminded me of those in Ballet Shoes, a childhood favourite. Sigrid and Ellie helped to dispel the stereotype of the unfortunate, mistreated orphan, while also providing acres of reading pleasure with their heartwarming cookery lessons for Annika.
The simple friendships between Annika, Pauline and Stefan were lovely, and their camaraderie was excellently written, as were the tales of the old woman. Even if her stories made me want to cry in parts. That’s a good thing.
It’s funny how the main plot didn’t really enter into my considerations. In this book, while there is a great plot, that’s not the important part. The beauty is in the details.
I didn’t give The Star of Kazan five stars because it didn’t have a deep impact on me. But it was hugely enjoyable and such a cozy book. It’s the kind of book you want to read curled up beside a fireplace when nobody is home. It reminded me of a snow globe, with snowflakes making the city of Vienna look magical.
It was like A Little Princess, as were Ibbotson’s other books that I’ve read, Journey to the River Sea and The Dragonfly Pool. Altogether an enthralling and very enjoyable read which I highly recommend.
And here is my draft of this review, which I tragically had to redo after I lost the original copy.