Gendered Reading: Why Do We Still Insist on Gendering Books?

Over the past few months and years, I have been following online discussions about the way people gender reading – not only the act of reading, as a pursuit that girls are said to prefer, but the books we give younger children and what we expect of them as they grow and how they develop their reading tastes. Trends in publishing for children and young adults, but especially children, at that age of discovering independent reading and what they enjoy for themselves, can be gendered – targeted stories about princesses being saved for girls, and boys playing sports for boys, for example, are the two extremes. Girls are frilly and passive, boys are dirty and active. It sometimes seems that there is no in between, and children are often presented with books chosen by adults, the ones who buy the books – which, when you only know a few brief facts about a child, can be hard, because what if you buy the wrong book? Understandably, people like to play it safe, and that is where gendered reading can come in.

 

AWW-2018-badge-roseYesterday, I followed Word of Mouth TV and Jacqueline Harvey on Twitter as they tweeted and chatted about and at the Colin Simpson Memorial Lecture, with the Australian Society of Authors and the Children’s Book Council of Australia, on the issue of gendered books and reading, and how adults in the lives of children – whether implicitly or explicitly, in schools and libraries, guide children towards books “for girls” or “for boys”. Which brings me to the question – just what are boy books versus girl books? Well, apparently, if you’ve been following the discussions, a few things boys won’t read, or are said to be discouraged from reading:

 

– a book with love in the title

– a book with a girl on the cover

– a novel (boys apparently prefer comic books)

– a girl in the title

– a female author.

 

However, as adults, parents, teachers, booksellers and librarians, we encourage girls to read widely, but still within what is seen as “acceptable” for girls: no crime, no violence, passive princesses! LOVE! As a girl reader who has read widely since the age of six, war and crime have never been a deterrent. Spies? GREAT, I love Kensy and Max, and so do many other boys and girls when I read the reviews – and adults. Yet, Jacqueline Harvey has only had the chance to present to one or two groups of just boys – rather than mixed groups or just girls, and George Ivanoff pointed out that he saw that the boys in the mixed group were just as enthralled as the girls – excellent news for Kensy and Max, Alice- Miranda and Clementine-Rose. In my view, anyone can read anything they desire, and that they feel ready for – readers should be free to explore the world around them, so whenever I see people asking for “boy books” or “girl books”, I often feel the desire to point out that books do not have a gender, they are just books. Kensy is exactly the kind of girl character I would have enjoyed as a kid – because she was so different and refused to be overly girly.

 

So why do we encourage these reading habits? Is it because we associate reading with characters in popular culture like Hermione Granger and Rory Gilmore (By the way, two of my favourite characters), or even Spencer Reid in Criminal Minds? The lack of male characters who enjoy reading, and who aren’t broody and sullen like Jess Mariano, also of Gilmore Girls? Girls as readers seem to have a few role models to look up to when it comes to reading and seeing themselves as readers but also as people who have interests beyond reading. Boys, it seems, are always shown as the hero, or the nerd (Spencer, but he’s an adorable nerd, and a positive reading role model), or Jess, who often faced unfair comparisons with certain literary men, like Holden Caulfield, whilst Rory, and indeed girls, have many to be compared to. Supporting characters can be readers if they are boys – Percy Weasley, but often, they fade into the background, and so, it feels, does reading as a pleasurable activity for our boys.

 

Of these characters I know of, Spencer, Rory and Hermione are the three whose reading is prominently and positively portrayed – to the point where other characters don’t blink. And when the other male characters in these books and shows – Derek Morgan, Harry and Ron, Dean or Logan – are shown as sporty and brave, or disinterested in reading (Ron), or a someone who would rather disrupt learning than learn (Logan), we don’t blink either. My point is these, whilst exceptionally well written characters, and ones I can either love or hate in varying degrees, are characteristic of how we portray what it means to be a boy or a girl, and therefore, what activities and indeed, books we desire them to read. And perhaps this is why we are seeing a trend in books aimed at both boys and girls by authors like Kate Forsyth and Jacqueline Harvey, and George Ivanoff, and a trend in reimagined fairy tales for girls who dare to not be a passive princess – gone are the days of the prince saving the day, Rapunzel can save herself now!

 

And books aimed at both boys and girls that tell stories of men and women, across a diverse group of people, who have dared to be different to what their respective societies, cultures, nations and times in history expected of them, and why Disney movies are starting to pull back on ending it with the marriage of the main male and female characters. There are quite a few to name that have done this over the years, but the three recent ones that stand out to me are Frozen, Brave and Moana, where it was love of family that saved the day. Sure, Anna might have ended up with Kristoff (I had Hans picked as the villain from the start – if they look too good to be true, they probably are), but it was the love she had for Elsa, and Elsa’s love for her – their acts of true love, that drove the movie and the idea that love does not have to be romantic to be powerful. It is the same love we see in Kensy and Max, and in the Other Worlds series, especially in book two, Beast World, narrated by a girl, Xandra, who is also disabled. George Ivanoff wrote her really well and made sure she was represented as a disabled girl in a way that wasn’t demeaning. In our Twitter conversation, he said he had written books one and three with a male protagonist, and two and four with a female protagonist, and hoped boys reading them would continue with the female characters.

 

Unpacking gendered reading and representation of this in film and other media is not going to be resolved in this one post. It requires self-reflection, and asking ourselves why do we hope boys will begin a series with a boy and continue reading the books narrated by a girl? Why do we assume boys are naturally more interested in comics, sports and certain male-coded things rather than fairy tales or girl spies, or anything that girls are supposed to inherently be drawn to? We assume, we don’t ask, unless we think the child is old enough to decide for themselves – and at what age do we start this? Before they start school? When they’re learning to read? Somewhere in between, or only once they hit age ten? My own reading experiences are varied. I read Narnia at age nine, and books like The Wind in the Willows, The Neverending Story and a few others that might have been deemed “boy books”. I also read what are likely deemed “girl books”: The Babysitters Club, Seven Little Australians, Little Women (many, many times), and The Secret Garden, amongst many others. These days, I read whatever I can, and whenever I can. I read books by women, by men, by both, by people with various identities, and books aimed at boy, girls and everyone in between. I laugh with Bridget, I spy with Kensy and Max, I paint with Rowly, and explore all avenues of history with Kate Forsyth. I traverse London with Charles Dickens, and solve crimes with Phryne, and so many others that I cannot list, otherwise this will become an exegesis rather than a blog post.

 

 

During this blog post, I have worked in the binary because many discussions I read do. This is a whole other level that needs unpacking, the inclusion of all genders, and perhaps a really good reason why we should refrain from using the terms “boy books” and “girl books” – and just go with books so we can all feel included, and all find our way to characters we identify with. This layer is something I do not have enough of an understanding about yet, and will leave to those who do to comment on and write about – and leave it at we need to stop gendering our books and reading habits. Just Read.

 

A list of books that we can all enjoy, whatever our gender:

Kate Forsyth

Chain of Charms series

The Gypsy Crown

The Silver Horse

The Herb of Grace

The Cat’s Eye Shell

The Lightning Bolt

The Butterfly in Amber

Jacqueline Harvey:

Kensy and Max series

Kensy and Max: Breaking News

Kensy and Max: Disappearing Act

George Ivanoff

Other Worlds series

Other Worlds: Perfect World

Other Worlds: Beast World

Other Worlds: Game World

Other Worlds: Dark World

frogkisser

 

Garth Nix

Frogkisser!

Garth Nix and Sean Williams

Have Sword, Will Travel series

Have Sword, Will Travel

Let Sleeping Dragons Lie

Jessica Townsend

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow

Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow

Comment with your books that you’d recommend to anyone regardless of gender – I have based this on what I have read!

 

Book Bingo Twenty-two – a prize winning book, a book by someone over sixty, and a book with a yellow cover.

Book bingo take 2

With 2018 rushing towards its busy, and warm conclusion, and in consultation with my fellow book bingo players, I have assigned some previously read books to the following categories, and have assigned my prize-winning category is taken up this time by 2007 Aurealis Best Children’s Book winning series, The Chain of Charms by Kate Forsyth, and have utilised other books in different squares from last time for others this time.

Book bingo take 2 .jpg

Rows Across – update:

Row #2 –

A book with a yellow cover: Australia Day by Melanie Cheng – AWW2018

A book by an author you’ve never read before: If Kisses Cured Cancer by T.S. Hawken

A non-fiction book:

 A collection of short stories: Fairy Tales for Feisty Girls by Susannah McFarlane – AWW2018

A book with themes of culture: Relic of the Blue Dragon (Children of the Dragon #1) by Rebecca Lim – AWW2018

 

Row #3:  – BINGO

A book written by an Australian woman:Disappearing Act by Jacqueline Harvey (Kensy and Max #2) – AWW2018, The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton – AWW2018

A book written by an Australian man: Captain Cook’s Apprentice by Anthony Hill

A prize-winning book: Chain of Charms series by Kate Forsyth – 2007 Aurealis Award for Best Children’s Fiction – AWW2018

A book that scares you: What the Woods Keep by Katya de Becerra – AWW2018

A book with a mystery: The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes (Mitford Murders #1)

 

Row #5

A book that became a movie:

A book based on a true story:

A book everyone is talking about:

A book written by someone under thirty: The Yellow House by Emily O’Grady – AWW2018

A book written by someone over sixty: Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies by Jackie French – AWW2018

 Rows Down update:

Row #1 –

A book set more than 100 years ago: The Gypsy Crown by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #1) – AWW2018

A book with a yellow cover: Australia Day by Melanie Cheng – AWW2018

A book written by an Australian woman: Disappearing Act by Jacqueline Harvey (Kensy and Max #2) – AWW2018

A forgotten classic:

A book that became a movie:

Row #3: –

 A memoir: No Country Woman by Zoya Patel – AWW2018

A non-fiction book:

A prize-winning book: Chain of Charms series by Kate Forsyth – 2007 Aurealis Award for Best Children’s Fiction – AWW2018

A book with non-human characters: A Home for Molly by Holly Webb, Beast World by George Ivanoff

A book everyone is talking about:

Row #5 – BINGO

 A Foreign Translated Novel: The Distance Between Me and the Cherry Tree by Paola Peretti

A book with themes of culture: Relic of the Blue Dragon (Children of the Dragon #1) by Rebecca Lim – AWW2018

A book with a mystery: The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes (Mitford Murders #1)

A book with a number in the title:

A book written by someone over sixty: Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies by Jackie French – AWW2018

AWW-2018-badge-rose

Row three across and row five down are my bingo rows this time around!

Australia DayLast time, Australia Day by Melanie Cheng slotted into the short story square, and yet this time, it fits into the yellow cover category this time. A series of short stories about life in Australia, and the varying experiences within society, aiming to capture the breadth of society and the different ways people react to, and deal with how they are perceived, and what is expected from the Australian experience, or perhaps in some cases, Melanie plays on the conflict between what is expected and who her characters are – varying between race, gender, class and sexuality to try and give a well-thought look at how Australia and Australia Day, isn’t the same for everyone, whatever their identity, and that it never will be. By revealing uncomfortable truths about Australian society in a way many people can relate to and understand.

Miss Lily 1Another book I recycled this time was Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies by Jackie French – which fitted into the over 500-page square last time. This time, it fits into a book by someone over sixty – I did this again to make it easier filling the remaining categories with books I am in the middle of, and some I am yet to find. A historical fiction novel set during World War One, Sophie is sent to London to a school to learn how to be a lady – yet it is much more than that – she learns the ways of spying and using her feminine ways to find out about the war, and eventually, play a part in the war on the front line, in a time when the world is in tatters, and where men and women are dying everyday as battles rage across Europe, leaving Sophie’s home relatively untouched by the guns of war. Jackie French has been writing for all age groups for many years, and has been a favourite of mine since I was thirteen, and read Somewhere Around the Corner, which I still have my shelf. Another good book that fit more than one square.

My final square is the prize-winning book square. Ordinarily, this would go to a single book, however, with the flexibility we have given ourselves in this challenge, I have assigned it to a series I read this year within two weeks (had I not been so sick, it would have been a week). The Chain of Charms series by Kate Forsyth won the Aurealis Award for Best Children’s Fiction in 2007, for the whole series, comprised of six books, and won for books 2-6, i the long fiction category:

Kate Forsyth, The Silver Horse, The Chain of Charms 2, Pan Macmillan
Kate Forsyth, The Herb of Grace, The Chain of Charms 3, Pan Macmillan
Kate Forsyth, The Cat’s Eye Shell, The Chain of Charms 4, Pan Macmillan
Kate Forsyth, The Lightning Bolt, The Chain of Charms 5, Pan Macmillan
Kate Forsyth, The Butterfly in Amber, The Chain of Charms 6, Pan Macmillan

The series follows Luka and Emilia during the final days of a tyrannical reign during the time of Oliver Cromwell, trying to track down charms from each Roma family in the south regions of England, to reunite them and their families to bring back their good luck and fortune, and also, help stop the violence growing around them, and release their families from prison. It is a charming tail about friendship, and family, tying in historical fact and belief to create a world that children and any other readers can escape to.

Again, all my books are by Australian Women Writers. My aim was for each to be a unique book, but as I am cutting it fine, I’m not sure that will happen, so recycling will happen at times. Onto my next Book Bingo in two weeks time!

Booktopia

Australian Women Writer’s Challenge Check in Four – forty-five to sixty.

AWW-2018-badge-rose

My fourth check in, and most current one as of the 12th of August, 2018, takes me to sixty books for the year, and in July I managed to read an entire Kate Forsyth series, as well as historical fiction, an #OwnVoices book, female focussed books, and one with  fascinating link to ancient history that I adored, as well as memoir about race, feminism and religion that unpacked how various identities can often be at conflict and how this affects you as a person and how you see the world, but also looked at how various aspects of one’s identity can inform a world view and understandings.

From Cromwell’s England to the desert hospitals of World War One, a haunted house and survivalists, dragons and China, and memoir, along with a good dose of fantasy, this list is as diverse as the others, with a large dollop of Kate Forsyth, whose books are always delightful.

My next post of this nature will begin with the latest Kensy and Max adventure, and from there, who knows what else will come?

Books forty-six to sixty

  1. The Desert Nurse by Pamela Hart
  2. The Gypsy Crown by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #1)
  3. The Silver Horse by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #2)
  4. The Herb of Grace by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #3)
  5. The Cat’s Eye Shell by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #4)
  6. Children of the Dragon: Relic of The Blue Dragon by Rebecca Lim
  7. The Legacy of Beauregarde by Rosa Fedele
  8. The Lightning Bolt by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #5)
  9. The Botanist’s Daughter by Kayte Nunn and Interview
  10. The Butterfly in Amber by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #6)
  11. When the Lights Go Out by Lili Wilkinson
  12. Amazing Australian Women: Twelve Women Who Shaped History by Pamela Freeman and Sophie Beer
  13. The Honourable Thief by Meaghan Wilson Anastasios
  14. No Country Woman by Zoya Patel
  15. The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty

From here, there will be many review books to come, some feminist fairy tales, crime, a whole mix – anything could be read and that is what is so enjoyable about the challenge and these posts – getting to see what I have read so far, and where it all fits in.

Book Bingo fifteen – A Book Set More Than 100 Years Ago

Book bingo take 2

Kate Forsyth’s Chain of Charms series has been sitting on my shelf for a few years. Between university up until eighteen months ago, reviewing for publishers and most recently, writing quizzes for Scholastic Australia, I’ve been trying to squeeze them in, and have found time lately, so that’s what I have done.

A book set more than 100 years ago: The Gypsy Crown by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #1) – AWW2018

Book bingo take 2

UnknownWhen the family of Emilia and Luka Finch are taken to jail by Coldham, a representative of the Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell, they are sent on a quest by their grandmother to reunite the six charms that were scattered between six gypsy/traveller families many years ago. With only a bear, a dog, a monkey and a horse to keep them company, Emilia and Luka must first evade capture and ending up in jail with their family – and then go in search of the five other families who hold the charms and bring all six together.

I loved this start – and am hoping to have the rest of the series read very soon – in fact, I have just started book two. Set in the late 1650s, this comes into the book set more than 100 years ago by A LOT. Kate often uses history as a backdrop to her novels and she has done it exceptionally well again, right down to the author notes that go through her research and the times that her novel is set in.Kate_Forsyth

My longer review is much more in depth, and I look forward to seeing where the rest of the series takes Emilia and Luka as they seek to help their family.

Booktopia

The Butterfly in Amber (Chain of Charms #6) by Kate Forsyth

the butterfly in amber.jpgTitle: The Butterfly in Amber (Chain of Charms #6)

Author: Kate Forsyth

Genre: Historical Fiction/Children’s Fiction

Publisher: Pan MacMillan

Published:

Format: 1st July 2008

Pages: 266

Price: $9.99

Synopsis: Life is always hard for the gypsies, who live to their own rhythm and their own rules, but since Oliver Cromwell had seized control of England, life had been harder – and drabber – than ever. But now life for the Finch tribe has gone even more horribly wrong. They have been accused of vagrancy and murder, and thrown into gaol with only three weeks to live. The only members of the family to escape are 13-year-old Emilia and her cousin Luka. They have been entrusted to find the six charms and bring them together again. Then, perhaps, the gypsies could once again have some luck… And the Finch tribe could walk free. What Emilia and Luka do not realise is that there is a price to be paid for each lucky charm, and that the cost may prove too high…

28th August – 3rd September, 1658:
Luka and Emilia travel to London to find the last of the Graylings tribe, who has married a Puritan lawyer and turned her back on her past. As well as all the perils of the capital city, the children must escape the vengeful Coldham, and still get to Kingston-Upon-Thames in time to rescue their families. But then, on the anniversary of his greatest victory, the Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell is mysteriously stricken down… Will everything change? And can the children save their family in time?

The thrilling conclusion to the Chain of Charms series.

Winner of the Aurealis Award for Best Children’s Long Fiction 2007

~*~

AWW-2018-badge-roseThe Butterfly in Amber marks the finale of The Chain of Charms series, and it reaches its climax as Luka and Emilia reach London, the capital and the heart of Parliament, and where Cromwell is destined to die within days of them arriving. As they set foot in London, they are pursued by Coldham, and arrive at the home of the Countess of Dysart, whose loyalties are uncertain until she agrees to shelter the children as they make their way through London, searching for the last member of the Grayling family, who has married a Puritan lawyer, turning away from her past. Here, they will meet family they never knew they had, be reunited with a friend from the past, and have to continue to try and evade Coldham as Cromwell is struck down on the anniversary of his greatest victory – all things Emilia has seen as they travelled across the country. With the charms reunited at last, can Emilia and Luka save their family in time?Kate_Forsyth

In the final instalment, Luka and Emilia, now in London, must use all their luck and abilities to evade Coldham, the Roundheads and pickpockets – as they seek to reunite the charms, save their family and meet up with the rest of the traveller families that they have encountered on their quest for the charms. As they venture onwards, sacrifices must be made – and they are always on watch, in case they fall into the wrong hands. Fate will bring an old ally to them and set forth a series of events that culminate in the finale of their quest, and the resolution written down in history about the end of Cromwell’s reign and the return of peace to England.

Kate Forsyth’s series  finale is as exciting and engaging as the previous five books, and brings together all the threads of story, plot and characters that have been popping in and out since the beginning of the story. I read it in two nights, eager to see what happened and how it was all resolved, and was caught up in the history, adventure and magic faced by Emilia and Luka on their perilous journey to find the charms and reunite them to save their family. She combines magic and history to create a believable  and inspiring world, where there are good characters, like Emilia and Luka, the evil characters such as Coldham, and the characters who, at great risk to their own safety and lives, help Emilia and Luka such as Tom Whitehorse, Countess Dysart and the many others who sheltered Emilia and Luka, and helped them get away from Coldham and find the charms on their journey.

I had so many favourite characters, especially the crew from the previous two books that included the Royalist Duke, a highwayman, Tom Whitehorse, and a Catholic Priest, whose company kept them alive and showed that people from all walks of life wanted to end Cromwell’s rule and were willing to do whatever they could to achieve it – including the Catholic Underground helping Luka and Emilia, proving the complexity of issues in the world can be seen from many angles, and is dealt with exceptionally well in children’s books.

I have now completed my read of this series, and thoroughly enjoyed it as I have all the other Kate Forsyth books I have read. Onto the next adventures!

Booktopia

The Lightning Bolt (Chain of Charms #5) by Kate Forsyth

the lightning bolt.jpgTitle: The Lightning Bolt (Chain of Charms #5)

Author: Kate Forsyth

Genre: Historical Fiction, Children’s Literature

Publisher: Pan MacMillan

Published: 10th November 2007/1st September 2008

Format: Paperback

Pages: 220

Price: $9.99

Synopsis: The final three paperbacks of the award-winning six-book series by Kate Forsyth.

Life is always hard for the gypsies, who live to their own rhythm and their own rules, but since Oliver Cromwell had seized control of England, life had been harder – and drabber – than ever. But now life for the Finch tribe has gone even more horribly wrong. They have been accused of vagrancy and murder, and thrown into gaol with only three weeks to live.

The only members of the family to escape are 13-year-old Emilia and her cousin Luka. They have been entrusted to find the six charms and bring them together again. Then, perhaps, the gypsies could once again have some luck… and the Finch tribe could walk free. What Emilia and Luka do not realise is that there is a price to be paid for each lucky charm, and that the cost may prove too high…

27th August 1685:
Sussex was the first county secured by the Roundheads because of its iron foundries. Here in the Weald, the Smith tribe are working for Parliament, making cannons and weaponry. They have prospered under Cromwell’s rule, and have no interest in old gypsy charms. And it is here where Luka and Emilia must find the fifth charm, a finely-wrought lightning bolt, and amidst the smoke and noise of the Horsmonden foundry, the gypsy children run into old friends… and old enemies.

Winner of Aurealis Awards’ Best Children’s Long Fiction 2007

~*~

AWW-2018-badge-roseIn the fifth book of the Chain of Charms series, Emilia and Luka find themselves in Sussex, where they need to find the Smith family of travellers, and the one who holds the lightning bolt charm – the fifth in the magical chain of charms that Emilia believes will bring the Finch family luck and see them released from the prison that Coldham and the Roundheads have put them in – for singing and dancing in the marketplace. As they venture towards London, they are separated from those who helped them in the previous book, and reunite with Fairnette and her family, the Smiths who hold the lightning bolt. Not only must they get the charm, but earn the trust of Fairnette’s father, and face betrayal from the Hearnes, whom they thought they could trust in The Silver Horse. In the foundry at Horsmonden where the Smiths now work, they will face fire and smoke, and make that one step closer to London and saving their families.

The intensifying plot gets more interesting as the story goes on, and as Emilia and Luka encounter people who help them – from the Catholic Underground to kin who live a new life and somewhere in between – the rebels, the Dukes who wish to change things. The children are helped because these people can see the changes coming – and seeing two young children alone appears to be hard for some characters to comprehend – so Emilia and Luka appeal to their humanity, and Emilia’s ability to see the future has begun to be apparent and become a part of the storyline, where she can foresee what is to come and uses it to her advantage to get help. The pace at which these books have been moving is excellent and engaging – no need for meandering or slow moving scenes that complement her other books for adults – pure action and adventure for kids and kids at heart.

As always, Kate Forsyth’s characters are layered, and intricate, and through each book, as a reader, I discovered something new about these beloved characters, Emilia, Luka and Zizi, and those new characters they meet that ensure their journey can continue, in contrast to those trying to stop what they are doing. Mixed in is Coldham and his stubborn, singlemindedness that he has to catch Emilia and Luka at all costs, a constant threat that ensures the pace of the novel moves quickly and fervently as Emilia and Luka seek to save their family from hanging.

Of all the characters, Coldham is perhaps the most loathsome, because he is so pinpointedly focussed on getting rid of Emilia, Luka and all like them, that there is little room for much else to happen with him. He is the kind of character you do not want to encounter, and Kate Forsyth has written him as exquisitely as any of her other characters.

The weaving in of the history of rule under Cromwell, and the English Civil War, and the treatment of travellers like Emilia and Luka, and their kin makes the story powerful and grounded in a time and place where some things were different, but the treatment of those different to the ruling class has not really changed – the way some people are treated illustrates that there will always be degrees of hatred and discrimination – in a world where the understandings we have today were not present, Emilia and Luka fought hard, and I’m keen to see where the next book takes them.

In the penultimate instalment of the Chain of Charms series, Luka and Emilia start to have hope, that maybe they will finally be able to free their family from prison and live as they have for their entire lives and be who they are. It is a beautiful series that I am so close to finishing and hope to finish by the weekend.

Booktopia

The Cat’s Eye Shell (Chain of Charms #4) by Kate Forsyth

the cats eye shell.jpgTitle: The Cat’s Eye Shell (Chain of Charms #4)

Author: Kate Forsyth

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Published: 11th November 2007/1st September 2008

Format: Paperback

Pages: 245

Price: $9.99

Synopsis: The fourth exciting book in the six-book series by bestselling author, Kate Forsyth.

Once there was a gypsy queen who wore on her wrist a chain of six lucky charms – a golden crown, a silver horse, a butterfly caught in amber, a cat’s eye shell, a bolt of lightning forged from the heart of a falling star, and the flower of the rue plant, herb of grace. The queen gave each of her six children one of the charms as their lucky talisman, but ever since the chain of charms was broken, the gypsies had been dogged with misfortune.
The Cat’s Eye Shell – Book 4, 20-24th August 1658

Having acquired the first three charms in the quest to secure their family’s freedom, Luka and Emilia flee into Sussex with soldiers hot on their heels, in company with a Royalist duke, a Catholic priest, a highwayman and young Tom Whitehorse. Only the Catholic underground can help them all escape – but this is a most dangerous religion in the time of Puritan rule. And Emilia and Luka still must find the elusive gypsy tribe of the cat’s eye shell, who, it seems, have turned to smuggling…

Winner of the Aurealis Award for Best Children’s Long Fiction 2007

~*~

As Emilia and Luka travel towards Sussex with the duke, priest, highwayman and Tom from book three, they venture into territory of the Catholic Underground in their search for the elusive gypsy tribe that holds the cat’s eye shell charm – though nobody is certain where to find them or indeed, if they will find them. But there are people threatening to stand in their ay, and despite the Catholic Underground taking them to safety, they must lie low during the Sabbath – everyone must – to avoid suspicion and stay out of the prisons and away from the gallows. But as they hide with Lady Mary and her family, Emilia and Luka are unsettled – they suspect someone is betraying their group. Whilst at Lady Mary’s they meet Milosh, a fellow Rom and the elusive owner of the cat’s eye shell they have been looking for. Caught up in the charms, saving their family and a growing plot to overthrow Cromwell, Emilia and Luka must find a way to negotiate with Milosh for his charm – and when they find out who he is helping, they are shocked – he has turned to smuggling – and helping the Catholics against the Puritan rule, for it is dangerous to be Catholic or Rom in these times.

AWW-2018-badge-roseThe fourth book in the series shows the intersection of two persecuted groups and the sacrifices they made, and the risks they put themselves in during Cromwell’s time. In a time when many people would have turned Emilia and Luka away, Lady Mary and her family the Royalist Duke, Catholic Priest, highwayman and Tom Whitehorse are there to help them – or at least accompany them for safety as far as possible. For these people, the goal is to restore King Charles II to the throne and put an end to the Lord Protector.  For Emilia and Luka, who rules is of no consequence as long as they can free their family and live their lives of music and travel – and it is perhaps here where the other characters begin to understand, or they at least have a mutual understanding that helping each other will be the best for all.

Now over the half-way point with this series, the tension is growing, as the deadline for Emilia and Luka’s quest to save their family draws closer and closer. The fear they have at losing all that is precious to them rests on this quest and getting help from the Hearne tribe to save their family. But it also rests on Emilia’s insistence that the charms have a magic quality about them that once reunited, will save their family and all Rom. It is here where the conflicting emotions and feelings Luka has towards his cousin’s approach comes out again – and the climatic ending of the novel leaves them with four charms, and an ally in Milosh, who will help them towards their next goal and charm in Sussex with the Smith tribe, and the charm shaped like a lightning bolt.

This series gets better with each book, and as Emilia and Luka move towards London and their final destination, whilst the focus is on them, the story occasionally shifts to the jail that Cromwell’s men are holding their family in, and shows the reality of what they are going through as Emilia and Luka are on their quest – truly tugging at the heart strings and having me hoping that Emilia and Luka will be successful, which will become clear when I finish the series.

Another excellent story from Kate Forsyth.

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