A girl steals through the woods, desperate to find the boy she’s given up her life as a fairy to be with. A boy steals through the woods, desperate to find a girl he only glimpsed from afar. During the escalating turmoil of World War II, another boy finds a home, briefly, with a Paris confectioner and his wife. This is a story of a banished prince and a wicked king. The story of love that conquers all and a treasure hunt for magical objects.
Timothée de Fombelle’s The Book of Pearl is charming and magical in the way of all the best fairy tales. It makes me somewhat regret that I cannot read it in the original French; I wonder how much wonder Sarah Ardizzone had to leave behind in the translation. This is a book for a rainy afternoon with a warm cup of tea.
The characters are drawn sparingly. While the story succeeds in charming the reader, and avoids becoming saccharine. Reading it reminded me of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust in the way it felt like a story written in a different time.
If I were to caution a reader about anything, it would be that the tale is achingly slow to get started, and the stakes never truly drive the story. De Fombelle begins four separate narrative threads which are only tied together about one-third of the way through the story. (Cleverer readers might see the connection faster.) For that reason, the book languished in my To Be Read pile for several months. Once I had a better grasp on how it was connected, I finished it in an afternoon.
I was given a complimentary copy of The Book of Pearl via Netgalley in exchange for this review.