Young Adult – Babylonne

Babylonne is profoundly unhappy in her current situation – orphaned and living with her maternal family in an unofficial convent of Good Christians during the 13th century – but such a position is preferable to the alternatives. That is, until her malevolent aunt decides to marry her off to a dotard. For Babylonne, this is the last straw. She sneaks out of the house, without much of a plan other than to run away and join the exiled lords she grew up idolizing. Exactly what she’ll do once she gets there is unclear.

But all of her plans, tentative though they may be, are disrupted when a Catholic priest insists on dogging her steps, and all but forces her to join up with him. He claims he knew her parents, meaning that he has information Babylonne is desperate to understand, particularly since some of the priest’s announcements shake the foundation of her self-identity.

This is a companion book of sorts to Catherine Jinks’s popular series of books about Pagan Kidrouk. Babylonne is his daughter, though he never knew about her. She is feisty and spirited, though without ever straying too far into anachronism. The relationships between the characters were well done, and the historical setting was rich and, as far as I could tell, accurate. It certainly made me want to go and look up more information about the Good Christians in 13th century France.

One criticism I had of the book was the way in which the dialougue was formatted. Almost every conversation included interruptions in the speech for thoughts. I found it jarring and became increasingly annoyed by it as the book went on, rather than adjusting as I had hoped. As an example:

“Relics!” What a farce they are. “As if kissing an old toenail is going to bring you closer to God!” You’d have to be stupid to believe such a thing. “I once heard someone say….”

Sometimes it would have made more sense just to incorporate the thoughts out loud. Other times they are secret, but it would have flowed much more easily if the out loud thought was finished and then the author added “but secretly I was thinking….” or something of that sort.

Other than that one complain, however, this was a well-written book that will appeal to fans of historical fiction. There is no romance involved, and lots of bloody battle scenes, so there is even the possibility of convincing boys to read it as well.

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