In France The Revolution rages on, claiming more victims each day. Just about anyone with royal aspirations has long since left the country or already died in its name. But there are still some left in France who are at great risk: those with titles, remote but dangerous connections to the royal family, or the air of financial success. They will do anything to get to England safely. Rumor has it that the man for the job is The Silver Blade. His clients disappear right under the noses of the Revolutionaries who are charged with their capture. In their place, the small silver blade of a child's toy guillotine appears suspended in thin air. Everyone with a need to leave the country is desperate for The Silver Blade's services. Not that anyone knows who he is, which is just how Yann likes it.
No spoilers for this book here, but there are definitely spoilers for its prequel, The Red Necklace.
The Silver Blade is just as intrigue, romance, and action-packed as its predecessor. Yann pulls off daring escapes, clever tricks, and ridiculous disguises. Sido struggles to get settled in England, where her Aunt and Uncle are the social center of French émigré life and where her Aunt hopes Sido will find a financially secure husband. Sido and Yann each pine for the other, and they communicate through letters that could put them both in danger. This is all well and good. Touching, emotionally complicated, blah blah blah.
The real problem is Kalliovski. He's not quite as dead as we were all lead to believe at the end of The Red Necklace.
But it is his face beneath the hat that makes all the rest quite forgettable. Those black eyes do not look human, so dark and dead, eyes from which no light shines. His skin is like tallow wax, his hair, swept back, is black, his lips a red wound. This is a face of nightmares.
Kalliovski goes walking here every night, the smell of blood drawing him time and time again to the guillotine. It is like a fine wine to his nose, a perfume to savor. He takes a last deep breath, inhaling the scent of death before setting off toward the Pont Neuf. He walks without a shadow to mark his passing.
I thought this was going to turn into a vampire book. I was really disappointed and worried, for a while, thinking that Kalliovski was going to drink all the blood left in Paris. I shouldn't have been; Gardner is way too classy for that. She draws on some obscure Gypsy legend that was briefly mentioned in the first book to explain Kalliovski's not-dead-ness instead, and it doesn't involve blood-sucking.
Things get a lot more magical and dark in this installment of Yann and Sido's story. Yann, himself, goes through a lot of self-doubt and darkness in his own heart, leaving Sido, Tệtu and everyone else behind while he basks in his own self-pity. But he grows and becomes stronger. This is, once again, his story. At least this time he gets to be on the cover of the book.
If you're interested in other cover art for this book, after my look at the covers of The Red Necklace, you can see a few on LibraryThing.
Book 1: The Red Necklace
Book source: Philly Free Library