WARNING: THIS REVIEW HAS BEEN EDITED FOR THE SAKE OF POTENTIAL SPOILERS.
YOU CAN FIND THE FULL REVIEW AT GOODREADS.COM
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
**Thank you so much to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Book Group for granting me a digital ARC of this novel via NetGalley in exchange for a review**
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” (Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities)
I did not know what to expect from this novel; I have never read Ms. Brennan’s Lynburn Legacy series and am only familiar with her through her contribution to The Bane Chronicles. I could not, however, help but be drawn in by what this novel promised: a fantastical/paranormal take upon Dickens’ famous serial novel of the French Revolution, A Tale of Two Cities.
Dickens may be hard to swallow for many people, but I happen to love his work, especially Cities. With its teems of resurrection, light versus dark, and social justice, it’s hard for a reader not to get swept away by sweeping romanticism of its tragedy. And while Ms. Brennan gets so very close with her own adaptation, she still falls just a hair short.
The strongest parts of Tell the Wind and Fire are when it focuses upon its setting; when it really digs its claws into its source material and starts spinning its own web from it. While it is, admittedly, sometimes a little clunky — did we need to call the revolutionaries the sans merci when this is set in NYC and not France? — it is still both gripping and intriguing. As the novel progresses, Brennan continues to pitch up the tension and let us see a world on edge begin to fall apart entirely into mob-fueled chaos. I should have been jaded, but Wind’s own tragic conclusion still managed to grip me; maybe not as much as when I first read Cities, but its a testament to Brennan’s commitment to the Dickens narrative that made her retelling so successful in that regard.
Despite all that, I adored this book’s concept. Adding magic and doppelgängers to this retelling of A Tale of Two Cities was fantastic and the back third of the novel — especially the finale — is the highlight of the entire book. Like I said, I was emotionally gripped by the last chapter almost in spite of my issues with the characters because Brennan fully committed to her premise and her world. It may be a clunky, sometimes uneven world, but she’s in it 110% and it shows in all the best ways.
I highly recommend picking up this book — even if, like me, you roll your eyes bit — because the strength of this retelling’s creativity outshines and outweighs its flaws.