"...time has a way of leading a person along a crooked path. Sometimes the path is hard to hold to and people fall off along the way. They curse the road for its steep grades and muddy ruts and settle themselves in hinterlands of thorn and sorrow, never knowing or dreaming that the road meant all along to lead them home. Some call that road a tragedy and lose themselves along it. Others, those that see it home, call it an adventure."
Phineas Button is the 13th girl born into her family when her father really wanted a boy. Because he simply cannot stand the thought of another daugher, he drops her off at an orphanage.
Here Phinea, who goes by Fin, grows up feeling a disdain for traditional girlish things and a desire to spread her wings. She's stubborn and fierce and these very qualities both reward her and get her into quite a bit of trouble. She longs to help build a new chapel but the sisters at the orphanage are determined to mold her into suitable marrying material and give her kitchen duty instead. While working kitchen duty, she becomes close to Bartimaeus who teaches her to deal with her pain by playing the fiddle. Her friendship with Bartimaeus and the blossoming romance with her friend Peter are the only points of peace in her life.
But the times Fin is living in are turbulent. More and more the colonists are chafing under British rule and the desire for independence is growing. The increased violence threatens the security of the orphanage. But then something terrible happens that threatens Fin's future, and she's driven to find work on the sea.
I have to admit to feeling a little nervous about reading The Fiddler's Gun. First of all, I've been reading about the book for some time and you never know how you will feel about the finished product. Furthermore, I can't say the synopsis was originally terribly appealing to me. Not that it sounded bad, just not necessarily like something I would normally choose to read.
But I started reading and I was made teary by the concluding paragraph in the prologue (which I quoted above) I was also pleased by how accessible the book was...not bogged down in period detail, but moving at a fairly brisk pace. And then as I was zooming on through, I found myself stopping to reread passages. Not because they were difficult to understand but because they were so beautifully written.
The characters that populate the world of The Fiddler's Gun are sharply drawn. I especially loved Fin. I love that she is exactly who she is, a woman that doesn't really fit into her time period's expectations of her, but she never forces herself into the mold. This is not to say she always handles things exactly right, though, or that she's not blinded to the motivations of those around her. She has tremendous capacity for both compassion and anger and her acts often seem justified in her own mind, but may come across as quite foolish to the reader. And I loved Peter the boy who quietly loves her and never once asks her to be someone other than who she is. I found myself thinking about the characters while I wasn't reading the book and that's one of the best compliments I can give any story.
The action sequences are also believable and engaging. This is not a tame pirate's tale, there is violence and darkness. But there's also love and hope and whispers of redemption. This is an adventure story and it's a love story. There are pockets of beautiful writing that will still your heart and characters that are impossible not to feel for. And it's also a bit of historical fiction! Truly, The Fiddler's Gun is reading at it's best.
Things You Might Want to Know: some mild language and violence
Source of Book: hmm. well I did receive an ARC for review, but I was also a patron of the book meaning, in essence, I preordered a couple of copies to help get it to print. I can say it was a good investment.
Publisher: Rabbit Room Press
The Fiddler's Gun is independently published by the Rabbit Room Press and for that reason I fear not enough people will discover this book. I want to make sure you realize the book is now available for purchase in beautiful trade paperback edition and an audio edition and kindle edition are forthcoming. If you are interested in purchasing the book right this second, as I suspect many of you are (just LOOK at the cover! Perfect for a gift to put under the tree!) you must purchase it from the Rabbit Room store. I've bought many a thing there (including this novel) and it's all safe and very efficient.
I'm also offering a short giveaway. If you follow this link you'll be led to a google form. Just fill it out and on Friday I'll choose a winner at random. Open internationally. Winner will receive a copy of The Fiddler's Gun I'll buy especially for them. And come back tomorrow for an interview with the author!