Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Review: Belle's Song - K. M. Grant

Belle's Song by K. M. Grant
Genre: YA, historical fiction, romance
Published on November 22, 2011
Published by Walker Childrens
Pages: 304
Read From: 1.1.12 - 1.5.12

Fifteen-year-old Belle is a dreamer with a sharp tongue and an aching burden: her father was crippled because of her fleeting moment of carelessness. After a chance meeting with bespectacled Luke, scribe to the poet Chaucer, impulsive Belle decides to join the pilgrimage to Canterbury, made famous by Chaucer's beloved tales. She hopes for a miracle - that her father will walk again. Befriending Chaucer and Walter, a handsome squire with a secret of his own, Belle is grateful for the company of her new friends. 
But her journey is not so simple. Someone on the pilgrimage is blackmailing Belle, and the threat to England posed by their unreliable king, who is anxious to keep his throne at any cost, casts a shadow over the pilgrims. When Belle discovers that Master Chaucer is embroiled in dangerous politics, she is forced to make a choice that will turn her pilgrimage into a gamble with a deadly pace.


Like all of K. M. Grant's books, I enjoyed this one a lot, but it also was not my favorite. Belle is a flawed character, and while K. M. Grant has always been able to write likable flawed characters, Belle was a little hard to like. I felt sorry for her, certainly - she's clearly struggling with severe personal issues, but as a narrator - as a heroine - her personal issues were a little vexing. She is, a lot of times, unnecessarily spiteful, and she causes a lot of her own problems. The other characters make up for Belle for the most part, though. It is nearly impossible to not like Luke, even if he spends a good portion of the book in a bad temper, and Walter is also easy to become attached to.

That said, K. M. Grant has also populated this particular book with a lot of creepy, disgusting characters - Seekum being the best example. And she does a very good job in making Seekum as disgusting and perverted as possible - I felt physically nauseous whenever he made an appearance. And while K. M. Grant never goes into explicit detail, Seekum's perversions make this book an edgy read. Several times he threatens to rape Belle if she doesn't go along with his plans (pg. 57-63 is the worst of these moments, and while nothing happens, it's a very unpleasant scene to read), and he carries with him a book which contains a list of disgusting debaucheries lots of high-up people have committed, so he can blackmail them. This book becomes a key item to the plot, and once again, K. M. Grant does not go into detail, but the suggestion of what's in it is very clear. On top of these things are suggestive gestures and jokes made and told by the various pilgrims, though none of these gestures or jokes are completely spelled out. And then, to add to these things, it is revealed that one of the characters is gay. While the character (I won't name him) is upset that he is this way, the Author isn't afraid to make his secret attachment to another boy in their party into something romantically tragic.

But, at the heart of all this edgy content, there is a political conspiracy concerning spies and secret messages, armies and foreign kings that make this an interesting and even exciting story. The nice thing about this story is while there are a lot of sexual alludements, they are mostly in one or two places, and then the Reader is presented with long passages free of such things. So it is pretty easy to skip all of that and enjoy the story - just as in Mary Hoffman's David. But this is certainly a book intended for an older audience, whereas K. M. Grant's other books could be read by a somewhat younger one. As I said at the beginning, this is certainly not my favorite out of the ones she has written, but it has its good moments, and the end itself makes it worth reading.

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