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Literature / The Night Gardener

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The Night Gardener is a Fantasy / Horror novel written by Jonathan Auxilier.

A pair of Irish children, Molly and Kip, find themselves forced to take work at an old English manor house in a wood that the locals allege is cursed. From the beginning, disturbing things begin to pile up — the sickliness of the Windsor family, the secret room in the manor, the black tree entwined with the house. Before long, Molly and Kip will find themselves entwined with the dark history of the Windsor estate, and in a battle for their own futures.

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Beware of spoilers.

This book contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Arc Words: "Stories" and "wishes" are a major part of the plot in many different ways.
  • Awful Truth:
    • The tree and its malevolent guardian are causing the Windsors (and Molly) to waste away, and the only way to deal with it is to stop hoping things will get better and get away from it (or destroy it).
    • Molly and Kip's parents put them in the last lifeboat after the crew of the ship they had booked passage on left them to die in the middle of a storm. Most likely they drowned when the ship went down. Molly personally considers this an awful truth — she knows the likelihood of it from the beginning, but her brother was feverish when it happened and didn't see it, and she couldn't bear to tell him. Then the tree begins giving her letters from them...
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  • Broken Tears: Master Windsor goes to the tree for help when his wife falls ill, but it refuses to give him any medicine that could cure her, only the money he's been asking for so far. He breaks down in tears.
  • The Bully: Alastair spends most of the book picking on his little sister. Near the end, he throws Kip's crutch — the only thing he has from his now-dead father — into the river. Luckily, he changes for the better not long after.
  • Bully Hunter: Kip hates seeing other people bullied, due to his own experience of being bullied for his bad leg most of his life. When he sees Alastair picking on his sister, he gets into a fight with him — despite the fact that Alastair is the son of the house and Kip is only the hired help.
  • Disney Death:
    • Molly doesn't tell Kip the last thing she saw of their parents partially because the letters the tree has been giving her made her hope that their parents' seemingly real death wasn't real at all. Later in the book, she has to come to terms with the fact that they really are gone.
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    • Near the end, Kip grabs the Night Gardener and throws himself into the river surrounding the Windsor estate to give his sister and the rest of the Windsors time to destroy the tree. Alastair comes back to the others carrying the seemingly drowned Kip in his arms. However, as Molly is mourning over him, he coughs out the water and wakes up.
  • Draw Aggro: Kip and Alastair take turns throwing rocks at the Night Gardener, distracting his attention from the other, as they try to get to a safe place.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: The tree gradually turns anyone who has too much contact with it pale with dark hair. It's a major sign that something isn't right, and Molly is alarmed when she realizes it's happening to her.
  • Happily Adopted: at the end of the book, Constance Windsor proposes to Molly that she and Kip should stay on with them, this time as members of the family. While Molly is pleased, she feels it wouldn't be good for the Windsors, who should have time to rebuild their own family after their period of dysfunctionality, and respectfully declines.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Alastair, who's been little more than a greedy bully throughout the book, shapes up when Kip chews him out about how his behavior would disappoint his dying mother. He even risks his life to help Kip against the Night Gardener in the last part of the book.
  • Ill Girl: The whole Windsor family is sickly at the start, but Constance lapses into a coma midway through the book, making the trope even more pronounced.
  • Insecure Love Interest: The trouble with the tree began again this way. Bertram Windsor, not being on his upper-class wife's social level (and knowing he would receive no help from her outraged family), felt terrible that he couldn't give her the life he felt she deserved and accumulated enormous gambling debts trying to come out ahead. Desperate for the means to pay off his creditors, he decided to move his family back to the old estate, despite his parents being killed there earlier.
  • Kill It with Fire: Master Windsor and Molly try to burn down the tree to kill the Night Gardener, who is linked with it. It works, but not before the Night Gardener has had time to chase everyone around.
  • Killed Off for Real: A number of characters die in the course of the book:
    • An attempt to trap the Night Gardener results in it crushing Dr. Crouch with a stable door. Storyteller Hester Kettle dies not long afterwards from injuries incurred when one of the tree's branches fell on her.
    • Master Windsor's creditors, Fig and Stubbs, are killed by the Night Gardener after trying to axe open the tree to get the wealth they believe is hidden in it.
  • Promotion to Parent: Just before setting her children adrift to save them, their mother handed Kip to Molly and told her that "he's yours now. Take care of him."
  • Red Is Heroic: Because of their Irish ancestry, Kip and Molly both have naturally red hair. They also risk their lives to save the Windsors from the forces that threaten them. This trope is played with in Molly's case; by the time her most heroic side comes out, the tree has turned her hair dark.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: "The Night Gardener" is not a friendly name, and the being behind it is even worse.
  • Power at a Price: The tree will give a person anything they want...but at the cost of sapping away their life.
  • Unbroken Vigil: After his wife falls into a coma, Master Windsor spends hours on end at her bedside. It's hinted that he feels responsible for bringing his family back to the old estate.
  • Uptown Girl: Bertram and Constance Windsor are an uptown girl / downtown boy pairing. Bertram was just a merchant and not rich enough for her family, but Constance loved him and married him anyway. Her family had a fit, disinherited her, and threw her out.
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