The Nightmare Garden by Caitlin Kittredge. The Iron Codex Book Two.
Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: February 2012
List Price: $17.99
Review: Many books seem very realistic, but not if they involve magic; unless, the story is in the future and written by Kaitlin Kittredge. She somehow twists and manipulates the idea of magic until it seems like reality. In The Nightmare Garden, Kittredge developed the characters so well that if they are in danger or they get hurt, the reader becomes afraid for them or cries. This is the second book in a trilogy; but, it is very easy to see where the story left off. The reader can pick up the second book and completely understand it without reading the first.
The Nightmare Garden is about a girl named Aoife who has a Fae mother and a Human father, making her a changeling (half Fae and half Human). She has a brother named Conrad that was supposed to be the Gateminder, there has never been a girl Gateminder, but, now Aoife is the only person in her family left that can fill the role of Gateminder. All Gateminders write journals for future Gateminders, so the gates can be easily managed and recorded in a way. The gates separate The Iron Land, The Thorn Lands, and the Mists. They were created to stop the monsters from coming through and wreaking havoc on the cities. Below is an excerpt from one of Aoife's journal entries from page seven of The Nightmare Garden:
"… I am the last person that should be writing this account, but I know that I am the only one left that can… I am the Gateminder by default, due, I believe, to chaos and chance."
Aoife is allergic to iron and eventually she will contract Iron Madness. Iron Maddness occurs when the Fae are around iron for ten to sixteen years, it changes and contorts the brain until the person goes crazy; in The Iron Thorn Iron Maddness is known as a necrovirus. Her mother has already gone crazy, and Aoife doesn't have much time before she loses her mind too. Of course, Aoife runs away from the city she has destroyed and the iron that will lead to her illness, she starts to have dreams of a mysterious figure telling her to find the Brotherhood of Iron and the Nightmare Clock. The Nightmare Clock can turn back time and undo all of the destruction that she has caused. There's only one problem, everyone wants to manipulate her and she has to protect her friends Bethina, Cal, and Dean. Will she find a way to keep her friends safe, not be manipulated again, find her family, and mend the gates before complete destruction?
This is the first story that I've read by Kaitlin Kittredge and I am definitely going to read the whole Iron Codex Series. I will warn the reader that there is a lot of cussing in the story and scattered bloody, death scenes. Due to these conditions I recommend the book for teen readers. One aspect of writing where Kittredge did an amazing job is with describing the settings. When she is describing the city, she writes,
"The spires of a ruined city reach for gunmetal clouds, the horizon a wound in the belly of the sky. Acrid chemical smoke burns the insides of my nostrils, all around, sirens wail, banshees made of iron, steel and steam. Something breaks under my boot, and I know before I look down what I'll see. Bones. Human skulls, femurs, ribs. The bones of other things as well, things that starved once the humans rotted away. Twisted spines, elongated claws. Teeth. I am alone. Alone except for the sirens, alone except for the burning, empty city on the edge of a rotting, polluted river green with algae, host to rubber-skinned, gibbous-eyed things with mouths large enough to swallow me whole and protruding stomachs ready to digest me."
Another example where the author uses outstanding figurative language to create a mental picture of the story is where she is describing the setting of the North Pole:
"As the filtered glass came away from my eyes, a thin finger of violet light unfurled in the sky above me, like pale blood in dark water. It was joined by greens, blues, yellows, dancing in concert… The violet streak moved with a pattern, a purpose, with none of the randomness that indicated the true northern lights. It flowed toward a point directly east of me, where the moon should have been.
The purple light gathered into a starburst, and it touched the very top of something growing out of the ice, the same color as the glacier and nearly invisible in the low light. Something so large that, from my vantage on the tower… it was blotting out the moon. Something that was reflecting starlight, like the ice and the sky, invisible until the aurora touched its spire."
As the reader can tell from the very first page and well into the story the setting is always in mind. Since Kittredge is so descriptive and developed the characters so well I rate The Nightmare Garden five out of five stars. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys suspense, thriller, action, and a drop of romance. I will definitely read The Nightmare Garden again!
Review written by Donna (6th grade student).
We would like to thank Random House for providing a copy of The Nightmare Garden for this review.
Have you read The Nightmare Garden? How would you rate it?