In a freezing city by the sea, it is opening night at the Royal Opera House, where a giant crystal chandelier sparkles with candlelight. Celeste awakes in a costume basket to find that everyone in the theatre thinks she is someone else. When the chandelier falls, Celeste is haunted by a strange girl and learns they are playing a dangerous game called The Reckoning. Gardner's first Middle Grade novel since the award-winning I, Coriander is sumptuous historical fiction; an elegant, complex novel that keeps readers guessing until the end.
Gardner’s story opens with a puzzling and eerie underwater scene involving a sinister figure and a young girl being put to a test. Celeste, it turns out, is about to be launched into an alternative reality that gives her the chance to save lives... This imaginative novel, bringing together magic, the mystery of the deserted Mary Celeste in 1872, a suspenseful challenge and a vivid backstage world of intrigue and romance (peopled with singers, dancers, a costume maker, a director and a clown), is original and rich.
Sally Gardner has been absent from the middle-years lists for some time, too. Although not quite as much of a household name, the prize-winning Gardner is another dab hand at literary world-creation. Fourteen years have passed since Gardner’s last middle-years novel, I Coriander, and her latest, Invisible in a Bright Light, is set in a Copenhagen theatre full of backstage drama. Her assured plot swings audaciously between alternate realities, as another pair of twins, Maria and Celeste, are forced to play a confounding, dangerous dream-game: the Reckoning. The prize is the lives of their parents, and the lives of the rest of the passengers of a ship that might, or might not, have been lost at sea in the Baltic in 1870.