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Elske: A Novel of the Kingdom by Cynthia…
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Elske: A Novel of the Kingdom (1999)

by Cynthia Voigt

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267442,587 (3.7)2 / 13
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Elske is really several stories sewn together into one book. There is the story of Elske's escape from the Wolfers, a primitive patriarchal warrior society, and her arrival and assimilation into the city state of Trastad (think Amsterdam). There after a series of adventures she ends of in the hands of Var Jarrol, the eyes and ears of the governing council. But then she goes into service with the renegade Beriel, who believes that her family has stolen her throne away from her and given it to her younger brother. She has other secrets as well, and as Elske helps her, she gains her trust and the two set off to win back Beriel's kingdom (called, literally "The Kingdom"). Now onto story three, in which Beriel and Elske arrive back home to discover that the Wolfers have been staging raids into the northern lands and set the Kingdom in a panic. The two split up, with Beriel off to face her brother and Elske the Wolfers. In the process, she finally picks up a man worthy of her, and together the hatch a plan to drive out the Wolfers once and for all. The ending, however is a bit anti-climactic.

Elske is one of those books that I should probably have stopped rereading years ago, because ever time I read it, there are parts I like less and less. Beriel's characterization is probably the worst bit. I never understand what she does to inspire Elske's confidence in her, especially after the bit about going behind Elske's back after Elske keeps a promise that she made to her and refuses to break it. She would have been better off sticking with Var Jarrol, which would have been a very different, probably more adult book, but probably also a better one. And it couldn't have been a part of "The Kingdom" series, since the only thing the books have in common is that they take place in The Kingdom. Teens will love this one, adults will see the plot holes all too clearly. ( )
  inge87 | Sep 20, 2013 |
I guess it's not possible to outgrow Cynthia Voigt! ( )
  purplehena | Mar 31, 2013 |
I first read this in 2003, after learning it was a conclusion to one of my favorite series as a teenager. The genre is fantasy only in the made-up medieval "Kingdom" setting; think wooded journeys and Robin Hood figures, and that's what I loved it for. I reread this now because I wanted to give it as a gift to Amy, and I was curious to revisit its themes. The first time, I was stunned by it being one of the most overtly feminist novels I'd ever read -- and for teenagers.It is, producing not one but two girl characters written in a shamelessly feminist way, in a story whose purpose is to explore the influence of gender customs on societies and have them surpassed. It compares a few extremes and degrees, and how independently thinking girls are challenged in all unless they shape change. The characters speak plainly about rape in many contexts. In the accepted gender dialogue, simply sharing these ideas without softening them is radical itself.I mean, mostly it's an adventure story for Elske, who has to escape her explicitly barbaric society first for one that is happier but just as explicitly conservative. I know these two examples are key to the author's ideas, but I find the story gets extremely better once Elske finally meets Beriel, and the two girls get to interact. Beriel's secret is amazing, and both girls eventually get to lead heroic retribution at the climax.In particular, I like how Elske breaks the mold with everyone she meets, but in a way that is often unwelcome or dangerous. She ends up earning respect for her unique stature, but she does not ever change anyone's mind. She's not a "magical woman" character, the upbeat type that heals everyone with her unconventional impulses and charm. (It works perfectly for Mary Poppins, but is pretty tired by now.) Elske is serious and practical within a variety of rigid groups, each of which would restrict her if she didn't prefer to act as an individual. It's not easy to be that person.I would give this book to every teen reader. Even in the few places it lags as a novel, its effortless portrayal of girls who will not sacrifice themselves is the most valuable moral for any story. ( )
2 vote pokylittlepuppy | Feb 10, 2010 |
13 y.o. Elske escapes certain death at the hands of the leaders of her barbaric society and later becomes handmaiden to a rebellious noblewoman whose rightful throne together they reclaim.
  smee04 | Oct 19, 2006 |
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Elske was born into the cruel and barbaric Volkaric people. Raised by her wise and fearless grandmother, Elske seems destined to a fate of death maiden to the sadistic Volkking. When the time comes however, Elske is saved when her noble grandmother sacrifices her own life instead, telling Elske to run far away, and never return. So Elske's journey begins. Arriving in the city of Trastad in the North , Elske is given work as lady's maid to the aristocracy. Here she meets the headstrong Princess Beriel, who sees a kindred spirit in the wilful, passionate Elske. As Beriel seeks to reclaim the throne that is rightfully hers, she wants none other than Elske by her side in battle. In a final and compelling battle scene, Elske at last does assume the mantel of death maiden - but this time, the victory will be hers . . .
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0689864388, Mass Market Paperback)

"The Volkking struggled, but his sickness attacked him both day and night, a war band giving the enemy no respite of sleep." With the first sentence of Elske readers are tumbled into a vivid medieval world whose rich, elegant detail only continues to entrance. Newbery Award winner Cynthia Voigt (Dicey's Song) brings her Kingdom series to a superb conclusion with this fourth and final story. At age 12, living as a captive in her Viking-styled Volkaric homeland, Elske has been appointed to die. Her grandmother plots to take her place secretly, so that Elske can escape to the merchant society of Traskad. Once there, she becomes a servant to the imperious young noblewoman Beriel--who insists on being the rightful heir to the throne of The Kingdom. Elske finds that while Beriel is stubborn and headstrong, the exiled young queen matches Elske's own honesty and gutsiness, and they soon become allies in the perilous battle to regain the crown. Like the other three books in the series--Jackaroo, On Fortune's Wheel, and The Wings of a Falcon--this story is linked to the others only loosely and can easily stand alone. But young readers who have once experienced Voigt's beautifully drawn characters, lush settings, and riveting plots will certainly want to seek out the rest of the epic tale. (Ages 12 and older) --Patty Campbell

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:22:39 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Thirteen-year-old Elske escapes rape and certain death at the hands of the leaders of her barbaric society and later becomes handmaiden to a rebellious noblewoman whose rightful throne together they reclaim.

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