Title: The Gypsy Crown
Author: Kate Forsyth
Series: The Chain of Charms #1
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Australian authors, Easy reading, History
5th sentence, 74th page: Alida, swift as she was, could not run all day.
Emilia Finch and her cousin Luka are gypsies. For them, that means they live a strongly traditional life, rich with story, music, dance, and magic, governed by the laws of the clan and the ways of the road. To the repressive Puritanical government of 17th century England, however, the gypsies are thieving, fortune-telling vagrants who are most likely allies of the devil.
While the Finches have managed to steer clear of trouble, it finds them when they decide to raise dowry money for one of their daughters, by performing in Kingston square one ill-fated market day. A series of terrible events lands the family in jail, charged with murder. Only Emilia and Luka manage to escape, promising to bring back help and free them.
The only problem is — how? Emilia believes in the legend of the charms: it is said that the luck of the Rom has turned sour ever since a long-ago gypsy matriarch broke her chain of charms, giving one charm to each of her five children. Since then, the gypsies have been persecuted and the families have dispersed. If they can gather the charms from the families, Emilia thinks, the strong magic of the Rom will somehow bring her family freedom. Luka, on the other hand, is more practical he wants to enlist the help of the other clans to help the Finches escape.
Emilia and Luka must race through the countryside, navigating a hornets’ nest of Rom-hating Puritans, Royalist spies, and traitors, if they are to complete their quest before the magistrate delivers a death sentence.
There’s something fun and special about a well-written story that is based in history. I’ve never been one to actually study history (mainly because I found it boring in high school), so reading a book that is so beautifully crafted around a historical moment is thoroughly enjoyable. Plus, it’s a great way to learn about English history, alongside the tolerance of others. Forsyth drives home the importance of accepting those who are different to us, even if we don’t quite understand them.
I love the focus on the Rom (gypsies) – it’s a culture that is quite fascinating in all of the movies and books that I’ve read (a bit romanticised, but still…). And it is the epitome of those who are ostracised by the greater public. The law and the church begin this epic journey by imprisoning Emilia and Luka’s family for effectively being Rom and sending the two teenagers on a whirlwind adventure to save their family. Although, there is also the feeling of ‘coming-of-age’ to the tale. Say goodbye to childhood and hello to responsibility.
This is a great, fun, easy reading about two young children starting the adventure that will (hopefully) save their family and teach them to be adults in their changing world. It is placed at the turning point in English history and I love the factual threads which run through this story. Plus, the animal companions that accompany Emilia and Luka on their journey is just adorable (albeit a little hard for them to disguise).
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