Title: Keturah and Lord Death
Author: Martine Leavitt
Genre: Fantasy, Fairytale
Publisher: Red Deer Press
Release Date: 2006
Source: Gifted by Wendy at Musings of a Bookish Kitty in the TBTBSanta swap 2015
Martine Leavitt offers a spellbinding story, interweaving elements of classic fantasy and high romance in this National Book Award Finalist. Keturah follows a legendary hart into the king’s forest, where she becomes hopelessly lost. Her strength diminishes until, finally, she realizes that death is near. Little does she know that he is a young, handsome lord, melancholy and stern. Renowned for her storytelling, Keturah is able to charm Lord Death with a story and thereby gain a reprieve but only for twenty-four hours. She must find her one true love within that time or all is lost. Keturah searches desperately while the village prepares for an unexpected visit from the king, and Keturah is thrust into a prominent role as mysterious happenings alarm her friends and neighbors. Lord Death’s presence hovers over this all until Keturah confronts him one last time in the harrowing climax.
This book is charming. It reads like a fairytale or folklore story, simple and at times profound without being ostentatious or challenging. I didn’t engage much with Keturah, but I found the story fun to read, and I did want to see how the ending (which is not meant to be surprising, I think) was going to work.
If the synopsis sounds a bit Scheherazade, it definitely is. Although it’s set in England around the (purely a guess here) 9th or 10th century. Possibly later. Not nearly as late as that book cover would lead you to believe (ignore the book cover above, it cheapens this story. Amazon has a much better book cover option). With magical realism, of course.
In typical fairytale fashion, Keturah is a victim of tragedy (orphan) who nevertheless maintains a charitable, cheerful disposition and rock-hard perseverance. She has a supporting cast of allies and friends, nebulous danger from fearful ignorants, unexpected true love, acts as a harbinger of hope, makes bittersweet decisions, and then pulls some solid wisdom out at the end. Not that she isn’t wise the entire book, it’s just her introspection at the end is the “moral”, as it were. And it’s a sweet note to end on, really.
So if you like fairytales written by a modern pen, I recommend it.