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Murkmere by Patricia Elliott
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Murkmere

by Patricia Elliott

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Murkmere (1)

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1418131,042 (3.75)8
A village girl, newly companion to the Master's ward in the days following the Ministration, challenges the motives of the religious leaders of the Divine Beings, the birds.

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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
Great setting, Wrong Point of View

Clouds hang low in the sky where I live. They seem to touch the flat brown fields around our village, and to shadow the broad backs of the horses pulling the plow.

From the opening sentence I was trapped in the dark, oppressing world Patricia Elliot so convincingly creates in Murkmere.

This is a world where the search for knowledge is severely punished and birds are worshiped as gods; their wishes, mysteriously translated by an inbreeding elite called the Ministration, used to submit the people. High above them, in the distant capital, the Lord Protector, divinely bound with the Eagle, the supreme of all Gods, rules uncontested.

Yet not everyone is content. Forbidden books are still read in hiding and the peasants, pushed to their limits by a brutal militia, are flirting with rebellion. But nothing threatens the established order more than the rumors about the avia. The avia, the legend claims, are the descendents of those who long ago dared to challenge the gods by flying. In punishment, they were forced to be trapped between two forms, bird and human, for ever.

Far from the capital, at the edge of the civilized world, lies Murkmere, a rural state that has been deteriorating since its Master became crippled in an accident following the death of his beloved wife in childbirth.

As the book begins Aggie, a girl from the nearby village, is called to the manor in Murkmere to be the companion of Leah, the Master’s ward, a wild girl of fifteen, he plans to make his heir on her sixteenth birthday.

Like in so many classics of the gothic genre—the tale of a young girl coming to a decrepit old manor—the girl is the narrator of the story. But in this case, the choice of Aggie as the narrator is, in my opinion, a big mistake.

Aggie is a secondary character, with an uninteresting story of her own. Yet because she is the narrator the reader is forced to follow her through all her boring daily activities. The story picks up when Aggie interacts with Leah, with the master, or even with Silas, the handsome, mysterious steward. These three are, by far, much more interesting characters than Aggie. Unfortunately they are not in the foreground often enough.

Aggie is not only an unreliable narrator—her vision of the events she relates is distorted by her religious zeal—but her motivations and actions are somehow bizarre. She is always at the right time and place, without a convincing reason to be there except that she must tell the reader what is happening. Also, her changing feelings for her mistress, a development that propels most of her comings and goings, seems forced.

Aggie is a character so secondary that if she were to be taken from the story, the main plot would remain unchanged.

Murkmere had the potential of being a powerful story, but the choice of the wrong narrator, an ending that lacks resolution and a plot that fails to address the most interesting elements of the story ruined it for me.

At the end, and although I was impressed by the haunting beauty of Murkmere and the depth of the world the author has created, I was disappointed.
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1 vote CarmenFerreiro | Mar 28, 2016 |
Jane Eyre meets The Golden Compass.....
This is one of those books that reads like historical fiction then all of a sudden you realize that it has major fantasy elements. Kind of a “whoops, I guess we’re not in Kansas after all” moment. In this case, this reads like the late 19th century until you learn that most books are blasphemous and there’s an alternate religion based on birds. Really, birds – the Great Eagle is the Almighty. The political structure is different too, as the aristrocrats are Ministers in the government that is considered the mouthpiece of the gods on Earth. The Lord Protector is the head of the Ministration and is involved in the plot as he comes to Murkmere for Leah’s debut birthday.
This book is historical fiction/fantasy/mystery with some retold fairy tale (the swan maiden) too! There’s also political intrigue and questions about religion. I really enjoyed it quite a bit. It’s well written and the plot soars along.
Highly recommended to anyone who likes any of the above genres! ( )
  ealaindraoi | Apr 22, 2008 |
I remember reading Frankenstein as a teen with that giddy sense that not only was I reading a classic, but that I was joining the Shelleys and Keats and Byron and the world of the romantic poets that I loved at the time. The actual text, with its gothic feel, left me somewhat cold. Full disclosure: I also could not shake the images spawned by the Boris Karloff. I am not much of a gothic fantasy lover and one look at this cover had me convinced it is not a book for me. WRONG! WRONG! WRONG! What a clever, beautifully told story, with depth and layers of meaning! Aggie is Leah’s companion at Murkmere Hall—a perfect name for this gray, gothic structure. An avian theology governs this rustic location and Aggie is very religious. When Leah finds a dead swan and risks damnation, Aggie is forced to reexamine her own views. How do we find and know the truth? The government is filled with corruption. Religious practice is filled with hypocrisy. The parallels between this gothic fantasy and our own real world intersect beautifully in this surprising gem of a book. Especially worthwhile are the book’s exploration of mythology and the role of birds. Recommended for sophisticated middle school readers and high school libraries
  edspicer | Nov 24, 2007 |
I would actually give this book 3 or 2.5 stars for the first few chapters then 5 stars for every other chapter. This book is set in a very different belief system then ours, based on birds, which is never really explained. It makes sense as the book goes along, but makes it hard to get into the story at first. It is a gloomy sort of slow to develop story, which does develop into a great story . . . if you stick with it. Its a good sort of Jane Eyre kind of gloom. Characters are not always what they seem, so stick with it and you will not be disappointed. ( )
  Nikkles | Aug 4, 2007 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Patricia Elliottprimary authorall editionscalculated
Edwards, MarkCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Krause, JonCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For my nieces, Charlotte, Vanessa, Samantha, and Gerry, because I hope this is your sort of story, and to the memory of my mother. With thanks to Chris Powling and Bob Hull for their encouragement when this novel was first conceived.
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Clouds hang low in the sky where I live.
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Aggie is offered a job at Murkmere manor to be a lady’s companion to the Lord’s ward, Leah. She accepts the job because she can then send money back to her Aunt Jennet. Her mother worked at Murkmere before her death and she thinks that if she knows more about Murkmere, she’d know more about her mother. But Leah is so strange, wild and moody and she has a strange bond with the swans on the estate. The Master is trapped in a caged wheelchair and has blasphemous books. Silas, the steward, rules over the servants with an iron hand but is really pious, or is he? No one is who he or she seems to be and whom can Aggie trust? How can she protect Leah?
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