Full of pomp and splendour and not a little magic...
The stage is set, the characters enlisted and the villain of the piece in place.
Enter a young boy called Yann. From lowly beginnings, an orphan raised by a dwarf and befriended by a wondrous magician; Yann could not possibly begin to imagine how a simple invitation to perform in front of Marquis de Villeduval and his aristocratic friends would spiral into a noble quest at a time of extreme civil unrest in Paris, France; or indeed the murder of a dear friend.
Centre stage is Count Kalliovski, an eerie, oppressive man always accompanied by his large, menacing dog. The Count, it would seem, has all (or most) of Paris’s noblemen on a string; in exchange for their most intimate secrets, he grants them favours and lends them money. Foolishly, even the Marquis himself is in this monster’s debt; a debt that he soon discovers cannot be repaid – except by giving up his only daughter, Sido, to this awful man.
As the tides changes against the Aristocracy and the King of France, Paris becomes at once a hostile and unbearable city to live in. Revolution is in the air, as is the thick, pungent stench of blood lust. Paris’s citizens are in uproar, demanding recourse for all their suffering. The prisons are full of nobles and other people seen to oppose the Revolution – all will be tried, all are set to be executed. Among them are the Marquis, who has gone quite mad and his daughter, Sido. Both the Count and Yann are determined to save her, but who will take the prize?
What are most striking are the opening narratives of each chapter that reminds one of the openings of a play; and we are not to be disappointed, for Gardner almost relinquishes her role as author and simply outpours the telling of her tale as though her life depends on it. The richness of character, the insurgence of the moment captured with deftness of touch and great eloquence, the masterful creation of the most vile villain in Count Kalliovski and the artful weaving of death, love, treachery, secrets and that dash of gypsy magic – combines to propel us into, not only the uneasy time of the French Revolution, but also the wondrous life of Yann. Gardner is a soaring star who has managed to produce something unique, intensely satisfying and ultimately brilliant.
We interview C J Daugherty about Night School
- 10 January 2012