To demand promises is to invite disappointment.
The Night Gardener follows two abandoned Irish siblings who travel to work as servants at a creepy, crumbling English manor house. But the house and its family are not quite what they seem. Soon the children are confronted by a mysterious spectre and an ancient curse that threatens their very lives. (Taken from Goodreads)
This is just a brilliant book (and I will get into that later)! At the same time this book is captivating, it also creepy and heart-wrenching too. Even from the first few chapters, I know that this was going to be a book that I can’t put down (eventually I did put the book down, but not willingly, mind you). The author did such a great job in making the reader wants to know more about where the story is going, keeping the reader guessing as to how the story will played out. Let me tell you this much (for fear of spoiling the whole book), it is not a disappointing story complete with its twists and turns. One minute you think it was going to be a mystery, the next it became a dark fantasy, but then it turns into such a sad story. One thing is for sure, whatever this story may be to its reader, it is definitely a page-turner and I can assure you that it won’t be disappointing or boring.
Not only the story is such a captivating one, the characters themselves are very interesting. You wanted to know more about the characters, of what mighty secrets do they keep behind closed doors and what those secrets might affect the outcome of the story. One particular character stands out for me, Hester Kettle the Storyteller. The first time she showed up in the story, one cannot help but be suspicious and intrigue at the same time. As the story progresses, you can’t help but wants to see more of this odd piece of a character.
Behind the magnificent story and characters in this book, lies an interesting and important message; greed and what it does to people. Eventually the story boils down to greed and how it eats people alive, leaving you with nothing but a shell of your former self. In the book, there was a gigantic tree, so big it towers the manor itself; without giving too much away about this book, I think that the tree itself symbolises both people’s soul and their desires for things at the same time. It is amazing to see that what once was deemed as an innocent desire, became so consuming it turned into your only goal in life that it dictates how you live your life to the point of willingly giving something so precious in return of fulfilling one own’s greed. Greed can be so consuming that even as one loses everything due to the greed itself, one can be so blind and not see it until it has come too late.
The last time I have ever read a children’s book that scared the living out of me was when I was still in Primary School, which is about two decades ago (more or less). At 28 years old, I read this book thinking that this was an innocent children’s book, and I ended up feeling so scared, I was shaking my head back and forth, both because I’m in awe of the amazing fact that a children’s book can scared the living out of me but also because I am most definitely scared out of my wits but am unwilling to admit that fact. Despite the fact that this book can scared the wit out of a 28 year old me, what’s more amazing is that this book is able to write a thought-provoking theme (about greed and how it affects people) by weaving it into a fantasy story suitable for young readers. It is amazing because young readers can read a story that is not only amazing in and of itself, but also came out finishing this book with understanding and a chance to discuss about greed and what it does to you. This book also writes about sibling love, so that’s something that its readers can talk about too after finishing the book. All in all, I am surprised (the good kind of surprise) and delighted to have enjoyed this book so much; I am also glad to have this book as the closing book of 2016. ps. I’m actually re-reading Kate Atkinson’s A God in Ruins right after I finished this book, but I don’t think I’ll finish the book before 2016 ends, making The Night Gardener as the official last book I read in 2016.
Definitely a recommend, especially for young readers. Sure, the book is targeted for young readers, but some might be a bit reluctant to give this book a try judging from the cover, but I seriously think everyone should try and read this book, be it young or old.
Title: The Night Gardener
Author: Jonathan Auxier
Genre: Children’s Book, Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Horror, Mystery, Young Adult