Friday, April 1, 2016

Book review - The Executioner's Daughter

Title: The Executioner's Daughter
Author: Jane Hardstaff
Genre: historical fiction/horror
Similar books: Crispin: the Cross of Lead by Avi
                     Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty
Nicely written, but hard to recommend

Summary(provided by publisher): A child that is born to the river shall return to the river.
All her life, Moss has lived in the Tower of London with her father, who serves as the executioner for King Henry VIII. Prisoners condemned to death must face Pa and his axe—and Moss, who holds the basket that will catch their severed heads.
Twelve years you shall have. To love her. To hold her.
With the king sending more enemies to the block each day, Moss knows she can't bear to be the executioner's daughter any longer. She's desperate to see the outside world, especially the River Thames, which flows just beyond the Tower's walls. Even the chilling stories about the Riverwitch, who snatches children from the shore, won't stop her.
After that, the child belongs to me.
When Moss finally finds a way out of the Tower, she discovers the river holds more dangers than she imagined—including the Riverwitch's curse. The Riverwitch once helped Moss's family in exchange for a terrible bargain; now she expects Moss to pay the debt. 

My opinion: This is a rather lush historical novel. I like the depiction of the feudal system, it's simplicity and inequality, its joys and pains. Moss and her father don't have much. She meets serfs ho have even less, yet in their great poverty they find fun and generosity. These elements are fascinating to explore. The Riverwitch plot is lightly spooky and relatively easy to understand. While the ultimate resolution is a little predictable, the greater plot of understanding your family, your world, and your place in it better is a solid read and provides a great deal to discuss with middle grade readers. And therein lies the sticking point. This is an upper middle grade book, the age at which historical fiction, especially longish and description heavy, can be a tough sell. Not for casual readers but perhaps a good choice for strong readers, especially in a group setting.

Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

No comments:

Post a Comment