Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an e-ARC of this book in return for my honest opinion.
This is an absolutely mesmerising and deeply moving story, which is unputdownable and will stay with me for a long time to come. This is most definitely Fly and her tiger’s story and what an unforgettable story it is: a story of entrapment and freedom; of cruelty and kindness; and, of despair and hope. I adored Fly: ached at the cruelty she suffered; marvelled at her strength and courage; and admired her empathy, kindness and selflessness towards others.
Fly has had the most terrible start in life, having been abandoned outside a London workhouse as a baby and then bought by the truly horrific Black Bill who forces her to clean chimneys for society’s elite as well as steal from them. After one too many beatings from her cruel master, Fly decides to take her freedom, but instead finds herself trapped in a cage with a tiger who addresses her as ‘Your Majesty’ and vows to restore her to her throne.
Whilst Fly does not believe that she is of royal blood, she does feel an affinity with the tiger and is neither scared of him nor surprised that she can communicate with him. The tiger has made a decision to restore her to her throne in a faraway, exotic Kingdom, but Fly has also made a decision: to free him and all the other animals trapped in the London menagerie, and take them back to their home in that Kingdom. Fly knows what it is to be trapped and crave freedom, so she immediately empathises with their plight.
This endearing girl has had to learn to be tough on the outside in order to survive her harsh and cruel upbringing where she is shown no love by adults. However, she is loved by an amazing group of street urchins who are the only family she knows. The relationship between Fly and her street urchin friends is incredibly heart-warming and touching as they support, protect and look out for each other; their camaraderie, with the utterly wonderful Gutterling language they use to communicate with, is just gorgeous which makes it all the more heart-breaking for Fly when she has to make an unbearably difficult decision…
Fly is being hunted by some sinister and very dangerous figures in London, figures who appear to know more about her past than she does, and who have an interest not only in ensuring she never leaves London, but also in obtaining the dangerously alluring ruby which she possesses … so begins a daring journey towards freedom: a journey filled with danger, with discoveries, with joy, with heartache and with temptation …
The genuine friendship between the tiger and Fly is enchanting. He both comforts and chastises her; encourages her to hope; and, is willing to protect her selflessly whilst she blossoms in the feelings of warmth and protection engendered through their unconditional love for each other.
This is an utterly engrossing, magical story which at times broke my heart, then mended it before breaking it all over again … a truly special story which is unforgettable, absorbing and heartfelt.