Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Talina in the Tower by Michelle Lovric

First published in 2012

Michelle Lovric is one of my favourite children’s authors working today.  I have been a big fan since I read her first children’s novel The Undrowned Child – her story-telling skills are top notch. Talina in the Tower, like Lovric’s two books before it, is written with imagination, intelligence, humour that snaps and loving attention to Venice and its history. If you truly want to escape, her books are your means to.

Talina in the Tower is set in late nineteenth-century Venice. It is described with gothic flare; on the brink of disaster and inhabited by frightened people and even more frightening creatures. I really enjoy Lovric’s cast lists. Talina is populated with vultures, sarcastic rats, cat gangs, Ravageurs (think evil, malformed wolves) and human characters even more quirky and strange than the creatures roaming about all around them. All Lovric’s characters have this gorgeous pantomimic quality this is endearing rather than over-the-top. I am actually jealous of some of the amazing character creations she comes up with. She obviously takes great joy in crafting their dialogue and it is fantastic stuff.

Talina is along the Teo mould from The Undrowned Child: wilful; clever; impudent, temperamental and brave. She has a huge heart and is wonderfully resourceful. I love girl characters like this. She is the perfect character to go on this adventure with. I also love how Lovric can so easily make ‘evil’ characters multi-faceted with just a few paragraphs.

The story is plot-heavy and full of twists and turns. It is dark and doesn’t shy away from barbaric or mature themes. But this is where Lovric’s wonderful humour kicks in. She has a great knack for capturing peripheral action, and there are some brilliant asides and observations from characters who are observing the main action (the story is told in third person). She also makes Venice and its history alive and interesting, and manages the perfect balance of fact and fiction. It took me a while to open up the book, because I knew how dense Lovric’s books can be (in a good way). But once I started reading Talina I was hooked.

If it sounds like I’m raving it’s because I am. Lovric has some of the best children’s writing out there. I only wish my own books reach the same imaginative highs as hers.

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