Synopsis according to Goodreads:
“In this exceptionally well-crafted tale, Coriander tells the story of her childhood in seventeenth-century London, and of her discovery that she has inherited magical powers from her mother, who was a fairy princess. But her mother’s sudden death brings on a dark time for Coriander, and after mourning her beloved mother and dealing with the disappearance of her father and the wrath of her evil stepmother, Coriander finds herself locked in a chest with no hope of escape and no will to survive. But when a bright light beckons to her, it is then that Coriander’s journey truly begins. Beautifully written, this magical and luminous story is destined to become a children’s classic.“
I, Coriander is a beautiful blend of historical fiction and fairytale fantasy. I listened to the audiobook and Sally Gardner definitely wrote this story to be read aloud. Her word choice is lyrical without being purple, and Coriander as a character is both believable and recognizable from the best versions of every fairytale you’ve ever heard.
The small historical details, the inclusion of all classes in tertiary characters (and the tertiary characters), the driving tension of the plot, all came together in some great world building. While the characters are somewhat predictable in their patterns of behavior, there was no eeeeevil mustache twirling, or humble pretty maid, or other shallow tropes. Also, there was an undercurrent of stories hinted at but not expounded upon.
Although this is Coriander’s tale, there are echoes of familiar fairytale characters (not the Disney kind, either) in the secondary and tertiary characters. Yet, this didn’t feel like a child’s comforting story. More like an inspirational tale about perseverance in the face of unfairness, adversity, confusion, etc.
I highly recommend it to fans of historical fantasy, fairytale retellings and fae, strong female protagonists, ensemble cast stories, and lyrically beautiful writing. I also recommend either reading it aloud, or listening to the audiobook.