Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Book Review: Precious Norman Honour by A.L Stumo

Publisher: Kathmirrid Press
Release Date: April 2011
Rating: 2 stars- okay
Source: Review copy from author (thank you)

Goodreads description:
Maud has always found that running errands and being helpful lets her go wherever the action is happening and wins the approval of her parents. But now that the castle is under siege by their own king, all that she knew is mixed up.

She cannot go run errands outside, she cannot even see outside, and her parents only want her to sit still and be safe. Maud longs to see the army outside and make this siege come to a happy end so that her life with her friends and family can return to normal. But can her life ever be normal again? Will she even be alive after this siege?Based on an actual siege in 12th century England, "Precious Norman Honor" is Maud's tale of conflicted loyalties, climbing attempts, and confinement.


The Medieval castle that eleven year old Maud lives in is under siege and instead of being able to run errands or play outside the castle, she must stay within the confinements of the castle walls to wait in safety. On the hill outside the castle, the King's army is gathering but Maud's father has been ordered by the Earl to keep the gates closed until he arrives with a larger army. The problem is that Maud wants to be in the centre of the action but she cannot even climb the watch tower to see the army that is trapping them because of fears of danger.......

Maud is the narrator throughout the book and it is through her eyes that the unfolding story is told as she begins to fear for her safety, question her father's judgement, despairs at being cooped up and longs to catch a glimpse of the King's army gathered outside. The author captured the thoughts of an eleven year old well and a middle grade audience will be able to relate to her character easily and see that despite Maud living in the 12th century she still has the same feelings and emotions as any child growing into a young women today.  The problem that I found with having Maud as the narrator is that because she is a girl she cannot see what is going on outside and is kept in a routine of helping with chores around the castle such as weaving, weeding and chopping vegetables in the kitchen. Whilst this is probably accurate of the life of a young girl at the time, it became dull and repetitive after a time. I think I would have enjoyed the book more if their had been a male leading role too such as a dual narration or a close friend of Maud's because a boy would know what was going on outside the castle and be able to see the King's army.

I was excited to hear that this book is based on a real 12th century siege in Bridgnorth because I hadn't read a book about a siege before so I was looking forward to finding out more about what happened in them. The history included in the story bought life in a Medieval castle to life and I found the laws of a siege and the loyalties between different people fascinating.

The anxious and frantic emotions of the inhabitants of the castle was expressed well in the writing and there was some clever imagery used in the book but I would have liked to have seen more description so I could imagine the castle and main characters in my head better.

Whilst the history was interesting and the premise very promising, halfway through the book I found myself gradually losing interest in the story because there wasn't enough action in the plot to satisfy me. I wished for a devastating and heart pounding battle that would really grip me and turn the page to find out what happens next page. Instead the main plot drive was Maud and her best friend Rowena's constant attempts to climb the castle watch tower's ladder in order to see the King's army. The first ladder climbing antics of the girls were amusing but after a while they became boring and annoying when nothing else significant was happening. The things that kept me reading was the threat of the castle running out of food and clean water, fears of sickness and wanting to find out how the siege would end.

Verdict: Precious Norman Honor captures the thoughts and feelings of a nine girl old girl trapped in a besieged castle fantastically and life in a Medieval castle was painted well through the main character's eyes but the rather bland plot let the book down. I think middle grade readers who like history will enjoy this book the most but if you are looking for an action packed story then this isn't the book for you.

If you're interested in reading Precious Norman Honor then make sure you check out the book's website here, where you can find out more information on the characters, setting and read an extract. You can also enter a Goodreads giveaway for the book here.


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