After escaping from prison, Isabelle seeks refuge in a family home in Paris, but she is forced to leave when guards come to the house in search of her. Hiding in the city, she is caught up in crowds surging along to the Place de la Revolution, to watch the executions. The date she gives is from the revolutionary calendar when all the dates were changed, and given new names.


Why had this crowd formed? What had caught their notice? I stood on tiptoe so that I could see over the heads of the people in front of me. A tumbrel, a two-wheeled cart, surrounded by guards was clattering over the cobbles towards us. As it drew level I saw that several people sat inside, their hands tied behind their backs. With a shock I realized that they were being taken to the guillotine. One, a girl, looked barely older than me. That could have been me, I thought suddenly, and a wave of such terror overcame me that I felt quite faint. I'd have fallen if I had not been so squashed in by the crowd. Around me people were jeering and hooting at the prisoners. A man ran behind the cart, hurling rotten food and curses after it. Another did a jig before making a sudden gesture with his finger under his neck. I wanted to shout at them to stop, but dared not draw attention to myself. The girl had bent her head to avoid the filthy missiles. The look on her face, when she lifted it again, was utterly bewildered, as if she did not know why she was there, or what she had done to deserve it.

'A curse on all aristocrats!' someone nearby me spat. I wanted to weep. These people were not aristocrats. They were ordinary people, like those standing next to me. How could they be so cruel?


The Fall of the Blade

It's 1792. Isabelle, daughter of an aristocrat, lives in a chateau just outside Paris. But France is in the grip of the Revolution, and as terror takes hold of the city, Isabelle's family decide that they must flee to the countryside. But will they be safe there? Will they escape the guillotine's falling blade?

Sue Reid on the background to The Fall of the Blade . . .

The French Revolution has always fascinated me and I was really pleased to be able to write a story about it for the 'My Story' series. I chose to write about a girl, whose father – though an aristocrat – was a liberal man, who sided with the ideals of the Revolution, and sat as a 'deputy' in the newly formed National Assembly (that's a bit like being a Member of Parliament in Britain). However, even liberal aristocrats came under threat, as extremists seized control of government and what became known as 'the Terror' swept the country.

The Revolution began a few years before my story does – some say it began when the hated Bastille prison was stormed on 14 July 1789. By then only a few prisoners were still incarcerated there, but its fall was seen as a symbolic moment by the French. France at that time was still largely a feudal society, unlike Britain. The aristocracy owned huge swathes of it and many of them were enormously wealthy. Not all of them were rich, however, and some were just and fair – like my heroine Isabelle's father – but many more did just as they liked, and didn't care or understand the plight of the peasants,who were desperately poor, and who had few rights.

By 1789 ordinary people had had enough of unjust laws and unfair taxes and blamed the monarchy and wealthy aristocrats for their plight. As the Revolution progressed, the monarchy was swept away and even those who had supported the Revolution went in fear of their lives. In 1794, a 'Law of Suspects' meant that almost anyone could be imprisoned, for the most trivial offences – and even sent to the guillotine.

Writing about a subject as big as the French Revolution needed a huge amount of research. I read a lot of books about it before deciding when to start the story. I picked 1792, when things were getting more frightening as it gave a good reason for a girl like Isabelle to start keeping a secret diary, where she can safely (she hopes!) express how she feels. By then it was getting hard to talk openly and no one knew who they could trust.

I was lucky also to be able to read accounts of people who lived at the time. Some were diaries of English people who were still travelling across the country in 1789. I also read what prisoners said and felt. My escape is based on a real one! And I had a map, which showed just what Paris was like in 1789 so I was able to visit it in my imagination. Many of the places on that map are still there and you can still see them today. You can also visit some of the places I mention in my book, like the Conciergerie, originally built as a palace, but a feared prison during the Revolution, as well as being the home of the Palais de Justice where prisoners were tried. The Place de la Revolution, where prisoners were guillotined, is now the Place de la Concorde.

The Revolution ended long ago. Out of the upheaval did eventually emerge a fairer, better society. Each year on 14 July, the French still celebrate the fall of the Bastille, and 'La Marseillaise,' which was first sung during the Revolution, is now their national anthem.

Publisher: Scholastic
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1407111183
ISBN-13: 978-1407111186
Order from Amazon

"(the) arrest, imprisonment and escape is wonderfully charged with menace and wholly credible."
Graeme Fife, author of The Terror:  the Shadow of the Guillotine – France 1793-1794