Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Review: Babylonne - Catherine Jinks

Babylonne by Catherine Jinks
Series: The Pagan Chronicles #4
Genre: YA, historical fiction
Published on November 11, 2008
Published by Candlewick Press
Pages: 400
Read From: 3.9.13 - 3.14.13

Early thirteenth-century Langeudoc is a place of valor, violence, and persecution. At age sixteen, Babylonne has survived six bloody sieges. She's tough, resourceful, and, now that her strict aunt and abusive grandmother intend to marry her off to a senile old man, desperate. Disguised as a boy,
Babylonne embarks on an action-packed adventure that amounts to a choice: trust the mysterious Catholic priest - a sworn enemy to her Cathar faith - who says he's a friend of her dead father, Pagan Kidrouk, or pursue a fairy-tale version of her future, one in which she'll fight a likely die in a vicious war with the French.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? Divided. On the one hand, I always like covers that indicate what sort of story the book is going to be. But I don’t like the character impersonator, especially since Babylonne is half Arab, and that girl clearly isn’t.

Characters: Babylonne is like the female version of Pagan Kidrouk, which makes sense, since she’s his daughter. She’s got his snarkiness, his penchant for finding trouble (and just like Pagan, it really isn’t her fault that so many bad things happen to her; it just does), and his quick thinking. But she’s also pretty bitter, and justifiably so. Her sarcasm has a super sharp edge that Pagan’s never did, and it’s this that sets her personality apart from his. Amazingly enough, though, Babylonne doesn’t have The Attitude, and she feels genuine - not like she has a major chip on her shoulder, and a need to prove herself. She’s a very strong, resourceful, and fun protagonist. I love Isidore perhaps even more than I did in Pagan’s Scribe. He’s kind and gentle and brave, and while he has grown from the naïve boy that he was in Pagan’s Scribe, he still has a bit of that innocence that makes one affectionately shake one’s head at him.

The Romance: There isn’t any!

Plot: Babylonne has been raised a Good Christian - that is, a Cathar. But her cruel and abusive relatives are unduly mean to her, because she’s illegitimate, and decide to marry her off to the oldest man in town, to get rid of her. Well, Babylonne isn’t one to take something lying down, so she disguises herself as a boy and runs away, intending to join the exiled lords to fight the French. But she doesn’t count on Isidore catching her and trying to persuade her to a different plan - one that is not likely to get her killed. And she also doesn’t count on this young man knowing her father, whom she’s always assumed took her mother against her will. The plot, perhaps, isn’t the world’s most exciting, and yet it’s highly engaging. It’s definitely more of a character-driven story, than plot-driven, and even so - with the French invading and Cathars being hunted down, there’s plenty of exciting moments. Still, the Reader spends more time reading about the developing trust and friendship between Isidore and Babylonne than the ensuing battles. And I loved it.

Believability: The Author isn’t afraid to paint life the way it was back then: in a word, filthy. And therefore accurate. From what I know about Cathars from my own studies, she paints a pretty accurate picture of them, as well as Catholics, and she also portrays them both fairly. Both religions had their flaws, and both religions had their pros.

Writing Style: I’m not a huge fan of her style, I’ll admit, and the way in which she writes Babylonne is even worse than the Pagan Chronicles. It’s present-tense first-person, extremely choppy, and almost like stream of consciousness, though not nearly as difficult to understand. There’s nothing poetic about it, nor would I call it movie-ish. But at the same time, it also connects the Reader to Babylonne much more than a prettier narration would, because we get to see Babylonne’s thought processes and reactions to everything. The style takes some getting used to, and I’ll never say that I like it, but I can tolerate it. The Author also isn’t, as I said earlier, afraid to paint life back then the way it was, and it sometimes makes for a rather nasty read. Don’t eat anything during this book, and it’s quite possible that you will feel the need for a bath afterward. The Author is almost as good making Readers hate people as Charles Dickens is.

Content: While nothing happens, there is a lot of sexual suggestions. Rape, homosexuality, and molestation are often mentioned, though not in any detail - and again, nothing actually happens. The Author acknowledges that this time period was not safe for girls - or young boys, - and she’s not an Author who shies away from things.

Conclusion: There’s a tremendous siege, which is exciting and depressing at the same time. While the book ends happily for the most part, it does have a very bittersweet tone, so don’t expect to feel all warm and fuzzy at the conclusion. Pagan Kidrouk is one of my all-time favorite male protagonists in literature, so it was awesome to read about his daughter, Babylonne. What’s also nice about this book is the Author wrote it to where one doesn’t have to read the Pagan Chronicles to enjoy it (though I, personally, would recommend that you do; it’ll make you appreciate the characters more). It can be considered a stand-alone novel.

Recommended Audience: Girl-and-guy read, sixteen-and-up, good for historical fiction fans and Pagan Chronicles fans.

Others in the Pagan Chronicles:
1)Pagan's Crusade
2)Pagan in Exile
3)Pagan's Vows
4)Pagan's Scribe

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