cover image Keturah and Lord Death

Keturah and Lord Death

Martine Leavitt, . . Front Street, $16.95 (216pp) ISBN 978-1-932425-29-1

Leavitt (Heck Superhero ) crafts a darkly gorgeous medieval fairy tale, deftly spun by Keturah, Tide-by-Rood's beautiful 16-year-old storyteller. Keturah was orphaned at birth, and her life, begun with Death, entwines with him ever after. Indeed, when she follows a prized, elusive hart into Lord Temsland's forest and loses her way, Lord Death comes for her. Like Scheherazade, with her gift for storytelling she beguiles him into allowing her a day's reprieve, then another and one more, weaving her own quest—finding her own true love—into installments of a tale within the tale. Leavitt also introduces some beguiling details: the heroine bargains with the village wise woman for a love charm—an enchanted eye that will indicate to Keturah her true love. The townsfolk find Keturah both villain and savior before the tale's finish, as she attempts to ward off tragedy within her beloved village. A few farcical plot twists lighten the tone, as Keturah's stalwart friends Gretta and Beatrice rush to uncover Keturah's mate (and wind up finding their own)—before Lord Death's deadline. Leavitt renders in Lord Death a character rivaling the finest gothic depictions, in her portrayal of a palpably sexual man whom Keturah both resists and embraces. Well-tuned narration, at once plainspoken and lyrical, conjures the sunny, brimming village at fair time, but also the volatility of a vulnerable peasantry and the encroaching forest's secrets. A fine achievement. Ages 12-up. (Nov.)