Rating: 4/5 stars
Hello readers of Oh My Blog! Today I have another spoiler-free review for you all, this time on “Hush: An Irish Princess’ Tale” by Donna Jo Napoli. The novel is an enthralling, realistic historical fiction piece set in the Viking Age of Europe, somewhere around 900 A.D. The story begins in Ireland, following the story of Melkorka – an Irish princess of a wealthy kingdom. However, due to negative negotiations with Viking raiders, Melkorka is forced to leave her home for a short amount of time in her parents’ attempt to keep her safe. Unfortunately, on the road to the place in which she would reside, she is taken captive on a nearby marauding ship, and is soon forced into an unfamiliar world of cruelty and slavery. In order to hide her Gaelic voice, Melkorka decides to become mute, quickly becoming of interest to her captors. This spellbinding novel follows her captivating and shockingly honest tale in a story of struggle, pain and desperation.
Due to the trade of slaves, Melkorka is introduced to many different companions in this story. Despite occasional confusion, I really enjoyed the wide selection of characters available in the novel. I really admire stories with lots of different characters, whether that be The Simpsons or Harry Potter. In terms of the main character, I loved Melkorka as the protagonist. At first, she irritated me as she was basically the generic “princess type”…haughtiness and prejudice included. However, throughout the course of the story, she shows extensive character development and transforms from a spoiled princess into a hardworking protagonist, determined to survive. I ended up strongly admiring her character and became really invested in her welfare, as you do in an intense story of adventure and survival. Recently I’ve been reading a lot of books with protagonists in which I simply can’t connect with, so it was refreshing to have Melkorka as a model leading character.
I throughly enjoyed the context and setting of this novel. The wonderful thing about historical fiction is subconsciously learning new things about past time periods. Going into this story, I really didn’t have any knowledge of the time period featuring the barbarous Vikings – other than the first episode of the TV series Vikings – and I found it interesting learning about this certain area of European history. I even ended up researching a bit about the Viking Age after reading this novel and experiencing the Vikings’ raids on Ireland through an Irish person’s perspective. The writing in Hush flawlessly introduced all of these new things to me, leaving me intrigued for more tales from this bloodthirsty and gory time period.
In terms of the layout, I really enjoyed the writing in this story. To be honest, it took a few chapters for me to get used to the author’s writing – it’s quite different to most Young Adult novels. However, I have read stories with similar writing styles before, such as Wise Child and Juniper by Monica Furlong, and I soon found myself slipping back into familiarity. I must say it isn’t my favourite style of writing, but I felt it was appropriate for the story at-hand. The telling of the story could easily be ruined by over dramatising certain scenes, but the author carefully kept the story emotional enough for the audience to feel fear and anticipation, but not too sappy that we became irritated with the characters or storyline.
Despite the constant changing setting in this novel, I think it’s fair to say that not much happened plot-wise. I never felt as if the story was dull or slow, but I feel like the novel had such potential to bring in stronger themes of adventure and mystery, and other classic survival aspects. But man, did this book give me a giant whack in the feels. The narration removes all chance of hope or happiness, and literally only leaves a strong feeling of desperation and sadness. Though this story may follow a princess, this book is no fairy tale – there’s no prince or a classic happily ever after. This princess goes through harsh brutality that is rare in a Young Adult book, which is very enticing.
All in all, I thought it was a very good book which expressed the harsh realities and outcomes of a slave in a context which heavily focuses on Vikings and their effect on European history, and was beautifully conveyed through honest writing that did not exclude the brutality of the protagonist’s story. Despite the lack of a detailed plot, I still really enjoyed the novel and would give it a 4 star rating. I would definitely recommend it to all who enjoy adventure and historical fiction, though it’s certainly not for the faint-hearted or those in need of a happy ending.