Saturday, October 18, 2014

Review: Madame Tussaud's Apprentice, by Kathleen Benner Duble

Madame Tussaud's ApprenticeTitle: Madame Tussaud's Apprentice
Author: Kathleen Benner Duble
Publication Date: August 1, 2014
Genre: Historical Fiction
In 1789, with the starving French people on the brink of revolution, orphaned Celie Rosseau, an amazing artist and a very clever thief, runs wild with her protector, Algernon, trying to join the idealistic freedom fighters of Paris. But when she is caught stealing from none other than the king's brother and the lady from the waxworks, Celie must use her drawing talent to buy her own freedom or die for her crimes. Forced to work for Madame Tussaud inside the opulent walls that surround Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, Celie is shocked to find that the very people she imagined to be monsters actually treat her with kindness. But the thunder of revolution still rolls outside the gates, and Celie is torn between the cause of the poor and the safety of the rich. When the moment of truth arrives, will she turn on Madame Tussaud or betray the boy she loves? From the hidden garrets of the starving poor to the jeweled halls of Versailles, "Madame Tussaud's Apprentice" is a sweeping story of danger, intrigue, and young love, set against one of the most dramatic moments in history. -Goodreads

3 Stars

At first, I absolutely adored this book. After further contemplation and after the initial buzz settled, my love wasn't quite as strong.

Madame Tussaud’s Apprentice can easily be summarized as thus: it is a story of a girl unwillingly caught up in the midst of one of the most contentious periods in history--The French Revolution. She is torn between joining the revolutionaries and staying impassive, a choice which will ultimately determine her fate in this war.
Duble’s interpretation of the Revolution is an interesting one, but by no means untrodden upon. It’s hard to say whether Madame Tussaud’s Apprentice contributes anything fresh to the historical fiction genre, but in the end, I don’t believe that was the author’s goal. If her goal was to provide a gateway for young readers into a horribly underrated part of YA, then I’d consider her novel successful.

However, this novel is by no means flawless. I feel like I've read a very watered-down version of the French Rev that skims over the gruesome and complicated areas of the period. The book basically underestimates the intellect of young adults, so here's an FYI: Just because it's labeled "YA," does not mean you must dumb down the subject matter for your audience. 

Because I like barricading.
Moreover, the characters’ interactions with each other feels overtly immature, as if the narrator has quite a narrow scope of life characteristic of an 8-year-old. (Seriously. I don't remember being that naive last year. And she's been living on the streets, so it's not as if she has lived a sheltered life.) The main characters aren't very memorable and the writing is a bit juvenile, which causes the overall story to be somewhat forgettable.

If the novel had been a bit longer, I probably would not have as many issues with it. But I feel like everything was rushed and that there wasn't enough time for much development, plot-related or otherwise. The characters admittedly do have a lot of potential, and if the author had spent more time developing them and their relationships, this book would have had more of an emotional impact on me. And although I enjoyed joining Algernon and Celie in their shenanigans,, I can't say I care for them much after finishing the book. Which is a shame.

A sequel would be nice.

While certainly not the best of the genre, Madame Tussaud’s Apprentice is as absorbing as it is audacious, and did not once fail in capturing my attention. Duble deftly and expertly manages to balance both the historical and fictional aspects; a true testament of her manifested talent. That said, the oversimplification of the French Revolution, as well as the seemingly artificial plot developments and characterizations, were perhaps the major downfalls of this too-brief novel. I would recommend to those looking for a light historical fiction read with a dash of adventure and a sprinkling of romance.

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