Review by Joe Bosa
“There is a moment, just before the dreamer stirs, when the mysteries of the world offer up their meanings. There is a moment, just beyond ordinary life, when perfection can be reached playing a melody or Telling a Tale. This moment is born in a world that lies between reality and dream.” – Mina, Harlequins Riddle.
At its heart, Harlequins Riddle is a story about adolescence, dreaming and facades. Detailing the innocence and naivety of youth, specifically for young adolescent females, Rachel Nightingale writes a mysterious, yet, detailed tale through the eyes of Mina, the young girl trying to find her brother Paolo. Nightingale presents the delicate transformation between fantasy and reality through the use of facades, which are depicted by the ‘Players’ – the group of Artisans that Mina joins, akin to a group of bards or musicians found in many fantasy films, shows and games. But the author makes this familiar trope fresh and new.
Nightingale uses evocative depictions of environments along with the naivety of adolescent ideals within Mina to bring readers the emotional aspect of being inside the mind of an adolescent female within a lower class medieval fantastical society. We, along with her are brought into the world of the Artisans, their facades and the harlequin characters behind the delicate transforming masks.
This reader, like many other readers, is particularly picky when it comes to what we read. Despite having an inquisitive title as “Harlequins Riddle”, this reader was sceptical in regards to the content that Nightingale is writing about and whether or not this reader’s interest would be piqued. Nightingale has brought to life a fantastical adventure following protagonist Mina on a journey of self-development which had kept this reader’s attention on edge.
Nightingale invites us to dream with her as we travel along the same path as Mina and the Artisan Players. We get the thrill and speculation regarding what is occurring and what might come to pass in the next few pages, we get to wonder whether or not the players are sinister in their intentions or if they are pure-hearted dreamers like the rest of us. This reader, for one, will be kept in the moment just before he stirs, waiting for the next tale of Mina, Paolo and the Players that is produced in the fabulous mind of Rachel Nightingale.
Image courtesy of Odyssey Books