If you’re looking for a book where heads roll…LOOK NO FURTHER. Madame Tussaud’s Apprentice has a red cover for a reason, okay?! It’s about the French Revolution and beheading and wax-works of dead people. Oh and there’s croissants. Basically — my kinda book. Except for the part where I felt disconnected with the writing style and had a significant deja vu moment. This could just be me?! I grew up addicted to In Search of Honor and if you just gender-swap the narrator — basically EVERYTHING is the same. Wax works. Prisons. Meanie revolutionary friends. Parents-dead-from-same-cause. Oops? So I was never surprised or attached to the story.
Bu can we take a moment to appreciate the cover? IT’S GORGEOUS. Also very aptly red. Because of the whole guillotine fascination France had.
It felt kind of Middle-Grade…but dark enough to be YA. The story line is REALLY simple and the violence isn’t graphic at all, and the characters are very black-and-white and we know who’s good and who’s bad in a blink. Definitely not complex. (And I confess, that’s partially why I dozed.)
Our bonnie narrator, Celie, follows the rags-to-riches storyline. One minute she’s on the streets, the next — BOOM — she’s a drawing-genius and working for Madame Tussaud at the wax-works. Yup. She’s only ever drawn in the dirt with a stick, but give her pen and paper and genius I tell you. I feel like the story requires quite a lot of suspension of disbelief. Which again, makes me think it does better as an MG.
And for a book set in FRANCE where Marie Antoinette “supposedly” says the famous LET THE PEOPLE EAT CAKE — this book has no cake. None. Excuse me but how dare they. I need to cry and eat chocolate to console myself.
So, the good things?!? I liked the historical aspects! The timeline of the French Revolution has been skewed (the author’s note explains this is just to speed up the plot) but everything else was OH SO REVOLUTIONY. (That is a word. How dare you deny this.) Aaaand there is bloodshed and riots and prisons and starvation. Although Celie is a delicate flower and stays inside most of this time, but she does faint and cry occasionally so we know how violent the Bad Outside World is.
So while I had a severe sense of deja vu for this story and I felt apathetic towards the Celie’s damsel attitude, it’s still an intriguing and bloody read about vive la France. I wish the writing and characters had had more depth and given me a reason to care. There was also exactly no singing, so how trustworthy is this tale?!? I know from the Les Mis movie that the entire of the Revolution happened IN SONG. French people do. not. talk. THEY SING. Gee.
THANK YOU TO ALLEN & UNWIN FOR THE REVIEW-COPY. Madame Tussaud’s Apprentice by Kathleen Benner Duble is published in November, 2015.
In 1789, with the starving French people on the brink of revolution, orphaned Celie Rosseau, an amazing artist and a very clever thief, runs wild with her protector, Algernon, trying to join the idealistic freedom fighters of Paris. But when she is caught stealing from none other than the king’s brother and the lady from the waxworks, Celie must use her drawing talent to buy her own freedom or die for her crimes. Forced to work for Madame Tussaud inside the opulent walls that surround Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, Celie is shocked to find that the very people she imagined to be monsters actually treat her with kindness. But the thunder of revolution still rolls outside the gates, and Celie is torn between the cause of the poor and the safety of the rich. When the moment of truth arrives, will she turn on Madame Tussaud or betray the boy she loves? From the hidden garrets of the starving poor to the jeweled halls of Versailles, “Madame Tussaud’s Apprentice” is a sweeping story of danger, intrigue, and young love, set against one of the most dramatic moments in history.