June 2009, Scholastic
432 pages, Paperback
Yunaleska's recommended rating: ♥♥♥♥♥
Summary from Scholastic
Living under the tyrannical rule of Oliver Cromwell, the Finch family, a tribe of gypsies, are flung in jail with only three weeks to live. Two young cousins, Emilia and Luka, manage to escape. They find themselves entrusted with the task of recovering the five lucky charms that, once united, it's hoped will restore the Finch family's good luck...
I read The Gypsy Crown before I read The Puzzle Ring. Both books share stylistic elements, but they are two quite different stories. I love them both.
The way Luka is observant of what others say in his presence added more dimensions to his character. His interpretation of people's true character is spot on.
Although Emilia was my favourite character, her grandmother Maggie felt familiar to me because some of the phrases used by her are used by my own family. This connection made me warm to her very early on. She's a strong grandmother because she knows what needs to be done. I feel that The Puzzle Ring shares a similar element: both have a grandmother who aids the protagonists on their adventure.
I laughed at a lot of points in the book, especially with the gypsies. They may not be loved by everyone in the story but they are a good example of how any close-knit community helps each other out in times of crisis. I amend this statement: not everyone helps out as much as they could: some are more interested in playing it safe than taking a few small risks to help Emilia and Luka out. This is still a good depiction of what goes on in the world today. Some people take time to weigh up risks, others dive straight in to help regardless for their own welfare. Neither way is wrong.
The gypsies generally look after each other, and woe betide anyone who gets in the way of a basket. It was funny to hear an unfortunate person get called nincompoop a few times - it's a word I didn't think was used much any more.
There were unexpected twists which had me wanting to thump a few people very hard. I like the inclusion of religion: it is sad that even earlier on in history so called humans labelled each other as infidels and sought to suppress them. Some things don't seem to change much.
It may seem a little daft, but I hadn't expected there to be powers like precognition in the story. On reflection, it makes sense. How else can Emilia and Luka find magical charms than with magic? I managed to guess correctly where one of the charms was hidden, but acquiring the others took me by surprise.
I like the chapter titles because they had me guessing about the content of the chapter before I read it. While reading it, I kept the subject in mind to see what part it played in the story.
Living in England made The Gypsy fun even more exciting to read. I'd visited, or at least heard of some of the places mentioned in the story. Again this helped me relate that little bit more with Emilia and her family unit. Considering how little I seem to remember from school, and how much I like historicals, I enjoyed learning what happened in Oliver Cromwell's era of history. The short summary at the end by Kate detailing the historical setting increased my understanding of the story's backdrop, and history in general.
Everyone is happy-go-lucky until the unexpected happens. My stomach dropped and from that moment I knew Emilia and Luka faced enormous difficulties. There was always humour in the story, but often it was accompanied by fear and anticipation of the unknown. I needed tissues at several points, more so because I grew very attached to Emilia and Luka. I could almost taste their despair as their lives as they knew them were irrevocably changed. They both have to make sacrifices to save their loved ones. It says a lot of their nature that they weren't selfish in these sacrifices, and they always saw to the needs of their animals first, before themselves.
Kate Forsyth can be found on her website here.
Check out my review and a short reading from Kate of The Puzzle Ring.
For a book with a similar historical setting, check out Lady in the Tower by Marie-Louise Jensen
For a more detailed (and horrific) insight into persecution of minority groups, try The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent