Belle's Song by K M Grant

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Belle's Song by K M Grant

Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Linda Lawlor
Reviewed by Linda Lawlor
Summary: On an impulse, Belle joins Chaucer and his companions on their journey to Canterbury, to pray for her father's recovery from a terrible injury. But intrigue, danger and love await her as she travels the pilgrim route.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: February 2011
Publisher: Quercus
ISBN: 978-1849164085

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Chaucer was a fascinating bloke. Not only did he write the famous Canterbury Tales, but he also found the time and courage to be a spy for the king at a time of civil unrest and political intrigue in Britain. So a story set during one of his journeys, one which combines his secret work and some of the more memorable characters from the tales, is an intriguing proposition, metaphorically as well as literally. Add a dreamy, motherless girl whose guilt at causing her father's accident only reinforces her tendency to self-harm and obsessive behaviour, and a cracking good plot emerges.

It is always satisfying when the microcosm of a character's life reflects the world around them. Belle is unhappy, lost without her mother and unable to provide a clean, comfortable home for her crippled father. Neither child nor woman, she cannot find her place in the world and spends her days dreaming of quests and adventures. She sees herself as a queen, galloping across the plains to her dying son, or as the sword in the stone, wielded by Arthur in his greatest battles. And when life intrudes, and her shame and loneliness become too much, she scrapes her legs with pumice until they bleed. A curiously modern theme for a historical tale, and one which serves to make Belle more immediate as a character. Set all this against the troubles of a boy who became king too young, who has enemies on every side and who barely knows who to trust, and the story gains much in terms of depth and resonance.

Belle recounts the story from the point of view of an adult looking back on her adventures, and while this allows for a satisfying sense of completion (don't you hate those books where the hero rides off into the sunset, leaving you wondering if there's any hope of a happy-ever-after for him, and if so, what form it will take?) it means it takes a while for the voice to settle. A wiser, calmer Belle speaks to us in the opening pages, and occasionally elsewhere in the book, but the Belle we travel with is impulsive and innocent, burdened with guilt and hopelessly vulnerable. Somehow she manages to fall in with people who protect her, as well as those who wish her nothing but harm, and in many ways her story is as fantastic as any Arthurian legend or Chaucerian tale. She meets with nobles and peasants, knights and pardoners, women of the French court and even a royal personage, but holds her own and speaks her mind, even when she is saying something they very definitely do not wish to hear. It would seem she has spent so much of her life so far day-dreaming of chivalry and battles, quests and tournaments, that she no longer separates fantasy and reality in her mind.

In fact, although the book is not over-long (less than 300 pages) it is so packed with thrilling episodes that it feels a bit like a saga, where events and mishaps jostle each other for space. Each element is so fascinating, so full of possibilities that you almost want to shout to the author to stop and let you breathe a while. Forbidden love, oaths and vows, blood feuds, politics and treason and miracles, duty and desire, adventure and deadly peril and loyalty, the dangers of travel and the easy companionship of the road . . . enough material for a dozen books. But if you enjoy a good adventure, if you are a fan of the Middle Ages, of Arthur or of Chaucer, you will enjoy this book. Who knows – you may even find yourself inspired to read (or re-read) Malory and Chaucer for yourself. And that's no bad recommendation for a book, now is it?

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Further reading suggestion: If you develop a taste for medieval pilgrimages, you couldn't do better than Gatty's Tale by Kevin Crossley-Holland. Read Bookbag's review and you'll be rushing out to order it!

Buy Belle's Song by K M Grant at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Belle's Song by K M Grant at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Belle's Song by K M Grant at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Belle's Song by K M Grant at Amazon.com.


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