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Hush: An Irish Princess' Tale

Review

Hush: An Irish Princess' Tale

Fifteen-year-old Melkorka is a beautiful princess. She lives in medieval Ireland and is the first daughter of King Myrkjartan. Her maidservants wash and dress her, and she is accustomed to having slaves do her bidding.

For her birthday Melkorka begs her father to take the family from their small town in the Kingdom of Downpartick to the wild and dangerous Dublin. Her 13-year-old brother Nuada and nine-year-old sister Brigid are thrilled. Her mother doesn’t want to embark on the journey because she is afraid of Vikings, who are known to raid the area. Despite the queen’s protests, the family makes the trip.

In Dublin, Nuada’s right hand is severed by an ax. The young prince is in great pain, and the family fears for his life. Nuada survives, but he will be unable to rule.

King Myrkjartan vows revenge and is determined to find out who mutilated his son. A messenger informs the king that the culprit was a slave of the Norseman Bjarni’s. To make reparation, Bjarni offers the king compensation --- a satchel full of gems. The king is outraged. He knows that Bjarni has stolen the gems from Irish monasteries during one of his raids. The Norseman also sends an offer to marry Princess Melkorka, promising the princess a life of luxury and ensuring the King’s family wealth and happiness.

King Myrkjartan appears reasonable. He sends the messenger away with a counterproposal, all the while plotting his revenge against the Norseman.

While the king makes plans for the attack, he doesn’t want to jeopardize the lives of his daughters. So he decides to send Melkorka and Brigid away to one of his chiefs for safekeeping. As the princesses prepare for their journey, their mother dresses them like peasants to protect them from being recognized as royalty. When Melkorka protests about the way she looks, her mother says, “Hush, Melkorka. You really do need to learn when to hush.” She also tells the girls, “Immalle --- together --- whatever you do stay together.”

During their journey to the ringfort, they see ships along the coastline and take measures to avoid detection. But when they seek shelter and food in a stone mound --- a hermit’s dwelling --- they are tied up and tossed onto a Viking slave ship. To survive the ordeal, Melkorka remembers her mother’s advice to hush. Her vow of silence becomes a powerful weapon against her captors.

HUSH is a spellbinding story that combines folktale and imagination, told in the magical voice of Princess Melkorka, who discovers a way to hold power over her kidnappers. One word of caution: A few scenes in the book --- while not overly explicit or graphic --- are vivid in their portrayal of brutality and might not be appropriate for some, especially younger, readers.

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Reviewed by Donna Volkenannt on October 23, 2007

Hush: An Irish Princess' Tale
by Donna Jo Napoli

  • Publication Date: October 23, 2007
  • Genres: Historical Fiction
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 0689861761
  • ISBN-13: 9780689861765