The Ransom of Dond by Siobhan Dowd

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The Ransom of Dond by Siobhan Dowd

Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Slight but beautiful fable from the late Siobhan Dowd, reminding us of what we are missing now we are without her. Illustrations by Pam Smy are unforgettable.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 112 Date: November 2013
Publisher: David Fickling
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 0857560905

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Siobhan Dowd wrote just four novels before she died from breast cancer in 2007. All four novels were wonderful and yet they weren't Siobhan's sole legacy to us. Patrick Ness took an idea of hers and, together with artist Jim Kay, turned it into A Monster Calls, which won both the Carnegie and Greenaway prizes. And now we have The Ransom of Dond, Siobhan's last story.

It is the story of a daughter of prophecy set on a remote island. Darra is a thirteenth child and this means she is born to be sacrificed to the sea god Dond, in return for thirteen years of plenty for the islanders. Darra's entire life has been spent waiting for her thirteenth birthday, when she will be rowed out to sea and will leap overboard with a rock tied around her ankle. We meet Darra on the eve of this terrible day. She is sitting above the island's cliffs, consumed with a powerful desire to live when she meets Bawn, her minutes-older twin, for the very first time.

It's a short story, so I won't tell you any more. But however few the words, The Ransom of Dond has entire worlds of meaning and emotion. It's about love and grief and justice and sacrifice. It's about how precious life is. And it is beautiful. And lyrical. I read it three times in succession and it's going to keep a place on my bookshelf especially for those times when I need to feel better. I know I'll be reading it again and again.

The illustrations by Pam Smy are unforgettable - strong and pure and communicating a perfect counterpoint to the text. I will be looking out for her work in the future and I expect to see her winning prizes. In fact, everything about The Ransom of Dond is lovely, from the story and the writing, through the illustrations and right down to the hardback edition with its lovely dust jacket and thick, luxurious paper. This is a book for keeps.

I did want to add one thing to this review. Royalties from Siobhan's books go to support the Siobhan Dowd Trust, which aims to spread the joy of reading, particularly to disadvantaged young people. It's a fantastic charity and you can read about the projects it supports here. Or you can keep up with the trust on Twitter by following @sdowdtrust. Do check it out.

For more beautiful fables and illustrations, you could try Soonchild by Russell Hoban and The Savage by David Almond and Dave McKean. And of course, you shouldn't forget the wonderful A Monster Calls in which Patrick Ness dresses the bones of an idea from Siobhan herself.

Buy The Ransom of Dond by Siobhan Dowd at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Ransom of Dond by Siobhan Dowd at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Ransom of Dond by Siobhan Dowd at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Ransom of Dond by Siobhan Dowd at Amazon.com.


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