TITLE: THE STAR OF KAZAN
AUTHOR: EVA IBBOTSON
Details: Juvenile Fiction 12+
Book Club read
Annika lives in Vienna, in the household of three professors, where’s she being raised by the two servants who found her in a church when she was just a few days old. Although she is very happy in her life and loves the professors as well as Ellie and Sigrid, the servants who found her, Annika has dreams about her mother coming, arriving at the house in Vienna to reclaim her. Annika just knows that her mother will be beautiful and someone important and that she will be delighted to have found her long lost daughter.
And then one day, Annika’s dreams come true. A rich, aristocratic lady has arrived at the professor’s house looking for the daughter she left in a church years ago. The lady seems to be everything Annika dreamt she would be and the only difficult part about her mother having found her is that Annika now has to leave the only life she has ever known and the people she loves behind to start a new life in Germany.
And life in Germany, on her family’s estate, is nothing like what Annika imagined. But Annika is an optimistic young girl and used to making the best of her circumstances. Besides, she’s made a new friend - Zed the gypsy who is looking after Rocco, an amazing horse – and she is so glad to have found her family at last that nothing, not even the dire circumstances she’s now living in, can spoil her happiness.
But all is not well in Annika’s life. And once all the secrets and lies are being unveiled it will be up to Annika’s friends and those who have loved her all her life to safe her from a horrible and potentially dangerous fate.
This was a decent story. I can’t say I loved it, but I didn’t dislike it either. The story is well written and the historical details about Vienna and Germany are fascinating, but it all fell a bit flat for me. I found the characters to be a bit too black or white, even for a children’s book. I also thought the story took a bit long to get started and got dragged out further than it needed (or even wanted) to be. I also felt that the book tried to be a bit too educational at times. While I have no problems with learning about times and places while reading a book, I want those bits of information to be incorporated in the story. In this book it felt as if I was being lectured to; as if I was being taken out of the story to learn something new before being allowed to get back to Annika and her adventures.
What I did really like were the sections in the book about the Spanish Riding School and the Lipizzaner horses. When I was young my mother had a whole series of books about these horses and I remember loving them. I have no idea what happened to those books and I really regret not having them in my possession anymore. I enjoyed the way in which this book brought back memories of hours of delightful reading.
Overall this isn’t a book I would enthusiastically recommend to anyone, but neither is it a book I would advice anybody against reading. It was an okay read, nothing more and nothing less.