Title: The Beatryce Prophecy
Author: Kate DiCamillo
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Walker Books
Published: 6th October 2021
Synopsis: A magical medieval tale from two masters, Newbery Medal-winning Kate DiCamillo and Caldecott Medal-winning Sophie Blackall – a fantastical meditation on fate, love and the power of words to spell the world.
We shall all, in the end, be led to where we belong. We shall all, in the end, find our way home. In a time of war, a mysterious child appears at the monastery of the Order of the Chronicles of Sorrowing. Gentle Brother Edik finds the girl, Beatryce, curled in a stall, wracked with fever, coated in dirt and blood and holding fast to the ear of Answelica the recalcitrant goat. As the monk nurses Beatryce to health, he uncovers her dangerous secret – one that imperils them all. And so it is that a girl with a head full of stories must venture into a dark wood in search of the castle of a king who wishes her dead. But should she lose her way, Beatryce knows that those who love her – a wild-eyed monk, a man who had once been king, a boy with a terrible sword and a goat with a head as hard as stone – will never give up searching for her. And to know this is to know everything.
- Twice winner of the Newbery Medal Kate DiCamillo and twice winner of the Caldecott Medal Sophie Blackall join forces for the first time in this stunning collaboration.
- A return to the world of fantasy from the author of the beloved The Tale of Despereaux, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and The Magician’s Elephant.
- Features one of the most unforgettable animal characters Kate DiCamillo has ever created (amidst some tough competition): Answelica, the hard-headed, sharp-toothed goat.
When Brother Edik finds a young girl in the monastery stables suffering from a fever, and with the monastery goat, Answelica with her, he decides to take care of her. Little does he know that the king is after her – that there is a prophecy about a young girl who will unseat the king, and bring about a new era of rule, and a change in the way the medieval world of this story works. Brother Edik, Beatryce, Jack Dory and Cannoc – together with Answelica – must use all their wits and tricks to make sure Beatryce’s secret – that she can read and write, and tell beautiful stories – is never revealed, and used against her.
It is rare that we get a book set directly in medieval times. Fantasy books often take place in medieval-esque worlds with lords and ladies, nobility, royalty, and a distinct class division between all the characters, as well as gender divides – where each character knows their place in the story, and where only a select few characters – often the core cast – work against the expectations of society and the dangers that they face along the way as they search for the answers to Beatryce’s past, present and future, and finding out what happened to her family. Though set in a time of swords and ideas about the dangers of magic and educating those not part of an upper class, this book is still exciting, and its short, sharp chapters, set out in five books – just like a medieval manuscript might be – ensures a thrilling and immersive experience for readers aged nine and older.
This is gentle at times and thrilling at others – with two perspectives in each chapter. In bold, we have the king and his advisor, plotting to get rid of Beatryce, and in plain text, Beatryce’s journey across the kingdom to fulfil the prophecy in ways that will shock those around her and resolve the tensions that begin in the early pages. This story evolves as it goes, and pulls at the threads carefully, revealing things as we need to know them, and building on everything we know chapter by chapter. As my first Kate DiCamillo book – I thoroughly enjoyed this, and was swept away by the exquisite story and characters, and the instant classic feel this story had – as though it has been around for years, even though it has just been published.
Books like this are like a time capsule of a time when people were expected to stay within certain sectors of society and definitive roles, yet when the characters flip it on their head, it can bring up all kinds of questions about what these worlds and times were really like – and if there are things we don’t know – based on how history has been taught and presented throughout the years. I loved seeing a girl at the centre if the adventure, supported by men and a goat dedicated to protecting Beatryce on their journey. It is one that I hope to revisit one day, and one that I hope many readers will enjoy.