I, Coriander ~ Sally Gardner
Yes, yes. I know what you are thinking – ‘this creature is actually alive?!’. Unfortunately for those who had their hopes raised – I am not dead (dat ironing….pun pun pun). I have just been lurking around and procrastinating (I wish…so much damn work to do uggggh). Worry not though! I have read quite a few books over the period of the self-proclaimed hiatus and I, Coriander was one of the books I had the misfortune to read. You can tell already it’s going to be a rant? Good! Believe it or not, I have read this book in one day (I literally just finished it) and my rage was so great that I finally decided to actually post something! So get your seat belts on, you are in for a rollercoaster ride called the ‘rant of a newborne hater’.
The Story: 1/5 stars
I really was trying to bump it up to 2 stars at least. Honestly. After careful consideration however I could not find any redeeming points of this poor excuse of a story.
We have Coriander who seems to be a normal, rich daughter of a merchant (with a weird plant name). Her family is ‘perfectly normal’ and happy – they are blessed with good looks and wealth, let alone witchcraf-I-I mean knowledge of medicine making with herbs (I am a brilliant synopsis writer, as you can see). While I was reading through 80 pages of how happy their life was, it was not too bad actually. It was simple but nothing too bad. It was interesting enough to keep my attention in a noisy library. Then the whole ordeal comes in with the crisis (major spoiler, not really) when her mother is killed…somehow. And I do mean somehow since I had to re-read that paragraph a couple of times to understand what the hell just actually happened. It was just so random and out of place! I could not understand what actually killed the poor woman..until like the very end of the novel! Honestly, Gardner, way to confuse a 17-year-old reading a book meant for 12-year-olds. If I was confused, how are the 12-year-olds meant to understand what just happened? I do understand that Gardner would want to keep it mild, as it is a children’s book, but for God’s sake! At least make some sense, woman!
Then the part which disgusted me came along – all the typical step-mother stuff only with a pinch of extra spicy child abuse. And when I say disgusting, I mean disgusting. It was hard to read without despising the characters or the story. Sure it may have sounded like something that happened in that time but goodness how it enraged me. The whole witchcraft was also really annoying. (I know I used this before but seriously, this actually really belongs here right now):
Then came the most ridiculous part of the novel which just lost me – the friggin’ fairy world. I am not kidding. This was pretty much how it was described initially before all the bad stuff happened:
Let’s just also say that everything was described in as little detail as possible so world building lacked quite a bit, but I’ll go into that later in the Writer’s Technique section.
Let me just say that by that point the story’s plot kind of lost me. Nothing was explained properly and characters began to lack common sense…more than they did before. Oh, you want me to tell you everything about me? Sure! Oh, you’re some creepy old man with a lantern I just met? I trust you with my life! Oh, you’re some weird blue light which may as well be my very own schizophrenic hallucinations? You must be my saviour whom I must kiss (on the cheek)!
Yeah….that did not go well with my brain that by that time was malfunctioning from all the stupidity and childishness. I know this is a children’s book but….DON’T TEACH KIDS TO TALK TO AND COMPLETELY TRUST STRANGERS AND WANDER OFF WITH THEM! WHAT KIND OF LOGIC IS THAT?!
The rest of the story just went downhill with the idling and pointless plot. The confrontations were dull and boring, not to mention predictable and stupid. The plot twists by that time were easy enough to guess and the ending…like what the actual hell did I even read. It was one of the worst endings. I don’t mean as in some tragic end. Oh no, everyone ended up sickeningly happy (too happy for 17th century, says I! Why hadn’t even one of them died of the plague?!). I will of course not spoil it but let’s just say that it was stupid and random. The vagueness also didn’t help.
Oh this part I will rant probably with the most rage. The historical context of the novel. Let me just say that I am an A2 history student who is doing a course on Charles I, Cromwell and the Restoration so I do know what I’m talking about. Reading this as a historian, this book made me sick by how it was so disgustingly prejudiced and historically inaccurate (I am no professional on this field of research, but I think doing a course precisely on this does give me justice). I can’t say I’m some fanatic of Cromwell or his Protectorate but he was made out a complete monster and tyrant for no good reason. Oh there was a reason, according to Gardner – he banned Christmas. It is a well known fact to any historian that it is a complete load of baloney. Christmas was never banned and I know this well since our class was disappointed to find this popular myth to be false. Let’s also clear another thing up – he was by no means a tyrant or even close (trust me, I had to answer a 45 marker on this one….there were hardly any arguments for him being a tyrant and many against). The toleration levels seemed to have been at the bottom in the novel yet as far as I know, religious toleration was at its highest during Cromwell’s rule, who encouraged it. In fact, Charles II’s rule had once again ended the age of toleration. Heck, his rule started out disastrously with the plague and the Great Fire of London. The whole ‘banning of fun’ was only during the Major Generals rule from 1655 to 1657 (and let’s just say that not many actually followed those rules while most Major Generals got along fine with the locals and only few were tyrannical) and everyone did not exactly get shunned if you weren’t a puritan, making most of the novel pointless and without a stable plot which would make sense. Cromwell was well regarded among England, as far as I can remember. Oh, he was goddamn awful to those abroad, massacring the Irish and deeming the Spanish as the spawn of evil, but the novel is set in London so you can’t use that excuse. Honestly, I think my history teacher would burn this book if I asked him to read it.
You want to write a history novel? Read a friggin history book or two first then and not some damn wikipedia page or rely on popular myths! It just shows how much your research was lacking. I am not asking exactly to become an expert in the field, but at least not to go around and encouraging the popular disillusionments of history in society, especially when writing a children’s book. Those guys take anything you say as fact!
The Characters: 1/5 stars
I hated all of them for one reason or another. Seriously, they were awful characters. I really don’t want to remember everything about them so I’ll make it brief.
Coriander: One of the most boring characters in the history of literature. She is stupid and doesn’t know half the time what she is doing. She randomly sometimes ‘knows what she’s doing’, which makes no sense. Childish to the core, despite her apparent maturing. I cannot bear to write any longer about this fool.
Tycho: Or as I call him – Psycho (he’s not really a psycho..he’s a fairy prince but seriously…what is up with the name). The most cardboard box character of the entire book most likely. And he was the flopping main love interest. WHYYYY?!!! The torture! The horror! One minute it’s ‘I love you, please don’t leave me’ and then literally the next ‘I understand *rides off into the sunset*’. My only thought when I read that was literally ‘Da f?!!!!’.
Eleanor (Coriander’s mum aka that weird fairy with the weird shadow): She wasn’t too bad, but that’s probably because she was present very little before she got thrown in the gutter of the novel world. The descriptions of her later on however did make me think she was rather weird and foolish. And…what the heck is this whole concept of that weird shadow? It just seemed so random and uninspired!
God-knows-his-name-aka-Coriander’s-father (edit – apparently it’s Thomas): This guy..what is wrong with him?! He sacrificed his daughter’s happiness for the sake of what people would say about him? Let me put this bluntly – just because you have a new puritan wife, it does not drop the charges against you for helping the Royalists. Honestly….the stupidity of this man…
The bad guys: Now these were disgusting and annoying. A whore, the most unholiest holyman and a witch? Seriously? And what the heck is up with the discrimination of looks? I get it that it makes it blatantly obvious who is good and who is evil if you say ‘he/she is ugly aka evil’ while ‘he/she is beautiful/kind aka good’, but that is incredibly shallow. There was no gray line as the ‘bad people/creatures’ were clearly divided from the ‘good people/creatures’ as if it was black and white. People are not that simple! And it’s completely boring!
The rest: It’s too much effort to name them all. They were all useless and boring, not to mention having the most random and convenient timings possible. No way in a million years would even half of the events in the novel had such perfectly timed entrances of the characters!
Writer’s Technique: 0/5 stars
For the nth time – I do understand this is a children’s book. I really do..but…THE WRITING IS GODDAMN TERRIBLE! It’s awful! Let’s just say that I do from time to time read the latest children’s books (since a friend of mine happens to…force me to read them in order to fangirl over them together) so I do know that this is not a good example of good writing. I swear Gardner put as little detail as possible just for the readers to get the gist of what is going on (and even that wasn’t enough sometimes) so it’s no wonder that there is a complete lack of world building of character growth and development. The linear storyline was completely boring as if the author just wrote it down as soon as she thought of it. She tried to make it clever at times, with the whole mirror symbolism and paintings to make it seem like she meant to do this all along, but it tries too much and fails miserably. It’s not clever and the writing techniques of foreshadowing have the skill level of a secondary school kid. I would say that this would probably pass as a very good GCSE/A Level project, nothing more.
Overall: 1/5 stars
This was an awful waste of time and poor excuse of a story. It was boring to the point that halfway through I couldn’t help but think ‘when is this rubbish going to end?’. Cliche and stupid plot and disgustingly historically innacurate. I think I just may have found a book which is on par with Twili-I-I mean The-Book-Which-Must Not-Be-Named when it comes to my ranting and hatred.
This will waste your time and brain power. Don’t do it. Seriously.
And that is the end of my rant! Thanks so much for the patience of reading!
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