My poor, ignored book blog. First, I forget my Kindle AND a book on a week long trip. Then the next week my Kindle froze (one of the less awesome traits of the Gen 1 Kindle) and I had nothing to reset it with, and again, was Kindle-less. How morose I was, I couldn’t even get up the motivation to write about this unique and fascinating tale:
I think the only mistake I made in reading this book, was in the timing of it. Fresh off the bitterly disappointing Shiver, reading another young adult novel immediately afterwards was not a good choice. As a result I found myself pre-annoyed, and didn’t allow myself to become absorbed in the narrative. I actually took a break after struggling through Part One, and I am so happy I did. Upon returning to the novel, I discovered a heartbreaking, haunting tale of inner strength and survival.
It amazes me that a majority of the novel takes place on a ship. Such a limited setting had every possibility to confine progression of the novel and restrict character development. Other novels with similarly restrictive settings have slipped into boredom through the repetition of thought patterns and activities. However, I marvelled at Napoli’s skill of melding Melkorka’s physical journey with her journey of personal growth. Even repeated events, such as nightly dinners, reveal new depth to characters or provide a new perspective for Melkorka to consider, transforming her from a rather helpless and close-minded princess into a mysterious creature of quiet strength and inner peace.
What I absolutely loved about this book, I’m sure is exactly what other people might hate about it. First of all, the novel is true to the life of a slave. Melkorka is stripped completely of her family, her home, her past and future. Her fellow captives, women and children she meets along her journey, become her new family. She develops a close relationship with these unfortunate souls, only to watch them be sold off to questionnable masters and never know their fate. There is a profound sense of loss that is prevelant throughout the novel. My heart broke over and over for Melkorka.
As the reader it was very hard to cope with the number of losses Melkorka experiences. For as strongly as we hope Melkorka returns to her family and homeland, it never happens. She is separated from her spit-fire sister, Brigid, who is lost to us forever. For as much as we long to know more about Maeve and her fate, we cannot. We long for Melkorka’s freedom, but again, Napoli’s realism prevents us from experiencing this release. Many readers would find this a dissatisfying read. We want a happy ending, but it doesn’t come. It’s not a sad ending or even an unhappy ending, but readers who expect all the hanging questions to be answered or all wrongs righted probably won’t like this book. But if you are like me, and killed off all the main characters in all the stories you wrote as a child just so your readers were dissatisfied in the most satisfying way, then you will love it.
Overall, I would say this is a fantastic book. Part One was, by far, the weakest portion. In fact, I believe the novel could have completely done without Part One, or it could have been shortened significantly, even to just a few pages of exposition. The remainder of the novel was a unique gem. It’s realism coated me with viscous melancholy, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Unanswered questions and the feeling of longing enhanced my experience of the book. I felt how Melkorka must have felt, stripped of her family, her land, her identity as a princess. She will never know what happened to her family, or the friends she made along her journey. I love that my feelings mirror hers. I love that I feel very incomplete, not whole, because I these feelings are true to life and true to this experience. These feelings are Melkorka’s.
One interesting fact I would like to point out, in the author’s note at the end of the novel, Napoli mentions that in the Icelandic Saga of the People of Laxardal mentions a woman named Melkorka, who the cheif purchased from a Russian slave trader. Supposedly mute, chieftain Hoskuld overhears her speaking Gaelic with her child. Melkorka explains to the chieftain that she was an Irish Princess who was taken by a slave trader. Although Sagas are hardly factual, it was oddly comforting to me that Melkorka existed, and that Napoli gave her a past.
I would highly recommend this spectacularly engaging read.
Christy: A Good Stopping Point