Saturday, June 6, 2009


Napoli, Donna Jo. Hush: An Irish Princess' Tale. New York: Simon Pulse, 2008.
[Book cover credit:]

ALA Best Books for Young Adults

Melkorka, the first born on an Irish king, is used to wielding a kind power over those around her. After a trip to Dublin, where her brother is injured, Melkorka's power begins to ebb. No one has power over the fever that wracks the body of the boy who should be the next king and threatens the kingdom. When she and her sister Brigid are taken by a marauding slave ship, it seems as if Melkorka's power will be gone forever. With the help of others taken in the night, she learns that small victories also hold power, and her silence holds her captors in awe and fear of her. Will it this new, small power be enough to carry her fragile spirit through the trials of slavery? Will it carry her home?

I loved this book. This is the first of Donna Jo's young adult books that I've read, and it holds all the magic of story and words that she displays in her early chapter books. Most of the book, especially after Melkorka and her sister are taken, takes place in Melkorka's head and through her eyes. Her transformation from a spoiled princess to a strong and defiant young woman is slow and natural, as are all her misgivings about herself along the way that we are privy to.

The setting and the story are, as in all of Donna Jo's books, well-researched and richly described. We see them through Melkorka's eyes, eyes that have never left her corner of Ireland, so the detailed descriptions do not distract from or feel out of place in the story. The customs and actions of the various peoples Melkorka comes across during her travels on the slave ship are also described and their nationalities and trade routes are explained. Why is the Russian slave trader that capture Melkorka at a Norse tri-annual democratic gathering? For reasons a, b, and c, which the reader learns as plot elements rather than fact.

The handling of the slave trade is also delicately handled. These men do not only pillage, and the young girls who are not raped early on, Melkorka included, are later sold at a higher price because of their virginity. The rapes are not graphic, but they are present. Melkorka's first night with her new owner is told through her series of denials rather than what is physically happening to her. The pain, physical and emotional, and rage and anguish are still there, but the violence is not. Especially in a book where the rape of female slaves is omnipresent, this way of handling it is both honest and tactful.

I love Donna Jo. I have yet to read a book of hers that was not beautiful. Read her books and, if you have the chance, see her speak. She's amazing.

1 comment:

Liyana said...

I'm impressed you manage to write such great, long reviews for the challenge!