Monday, March 4, 2013

Book Review: Hush: An Irish Princess' Tale by Donna Jo Napoli

I actually read this book a while ago and I often tell people it's one of my favorite YA historical novels. Here's a brief summary:

Melkorka is the oldest daughter of an Irish King. When her brother Nuada is attacked and left disfigured, no longer able to be the future king, Melkorka's father comes up with a plan for revenge. But first he sends Melkorka and her younger sister Brigid away to safety in the dark of night. But something happens before they get there. Melkorka and Brigid are kidnapped and taken aboard a Russian slave ship. As much as Melkorka wants to announce who she is and demand the rights and security she has always known, she soon realizes none of this will save her or her sister. So instead Melkorka takes a vow of silence, refusing to give anyone the power of her words. This fascinates the other slaves, the crew of the ship, and most especially: the ship's captain. His interest and wariness of her provides her with a measure of protection against the evils on board. Eventually, eight year old Brigid manages to escape and Melkorka is left with nothing but her own strength and determination to see her through. She uses what influences she has to help the other captives and ultimately ends up in the middle east where she watches all those she's bonded with get sold away.

What I loved about this book was Napoli's amazing ability to make you feel like you were right there in the year 900 A.D. with Melkorka. Her descriptions of Ireland, the daily life of the royal Irish family, and the time period are detailed and powerful. The conditions aboard the slave ship will leave you in tears. Melkorka's strength of character will have you rooting for her until the end. And the vow of silence is done so brilliantly that you hardly even notice your main character doesn't speak. While the ending isn't the happily ever after you would want for Melkorka, it is realistic to the story. Melkorka's journey will leave you breathlessly turning the pages until you finish.