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Reviewed by Savarna Yang
Opening sentence
An exciting story with a balance of joy and shadow, Savarna Yang
August 24, 2022

"You’re my property,” he said, between clenched teeth, “and I’ll dispose of you as I wish.”

Gwenifer is the unwanted child her uncle was made to take in when her mother died. Harry is the village halfwit everyone thinks they have the right to manipulate and exploit. And both of them are people who feel they can never really belong in the judgemental town of Grimblebury.

After an accident and a scandal, Gwen and Harry are forced to leave the village and accompany blind Mother Dorit, the steward’s mother, on a pilgrimage to Ransomwood, the town where a statue of the Holy Mother is rumoured to cry healing tears each day at dawn.

Though their outward reasons for the journey are to repair Mother Dorit’s sight and escape the hostility of Grimblebury, both Gwen and Harry are also hoping for miracles – just of a different kind.

But their journey is dangerous and each stage has a challenge they must overcome.

Ransomwood by Sherryl Jordan is an exciting story set in the Middle Ages. With superstition, religion and social inequality all featuring in parts of the novel, it shows many aspects of the time period.

Jordan writes very descriptively and she paints a realistic picture of her story’s setting. I don’t usually read books set in the Middle Ages as I find them too dark, but Ransomwood has just the right amount of positive scenes to balance the shadowy ones.

The characters in Ransomwood are well-crafted and diverse, although I found it hard to get close to them. While I immediately liked the character of Harry – he’s very sweet and innocent – I found it hard to relate to him in many ways. And Gwenifer is really quite snooty and selfish to start with, though part of the story is why she is like this, and how she begins to change.

I think a main theme in this novel is that no matter who you are, it’s possible to become whatever you want. Even if things don’t quite work out as you imagine they might, it’s always right to try.

‘“If you have a dream, pick it up with both hands and shake it in the face of fate, and fight till you make every bit of that dream come true.’”

I just have one question about the book: why does Harry like Gwenifer in the first place? As their romance is slowly built through the storyline, it shows Gwenifer warm to Harry but it never explains why he likes her so devotedly from the very first page. She hardly notices him back then, and when she does, it’s only to use him. The obvious reason would be because she’s very pretty but that seems quite shallow and superficial compared to the rest of the story.

Overall I definitely enjoyed Ransomwood and I look forward to reading more of Jordan’s writing. It’s a great novel for anyone aged 12-15 who is interested in historical adventures.

Savarna is 14 and lives in Dunedin.
Author & Illustrator: Sherryl Jordan
Publisher: Scholastic