Summary: Living in a feudalistic society set in 1164 Scotland, sixteen year-old Lady Jeanette Avenel (Jenny) is used to a world where women are expected to submit a man’s will and are treated as property. When her older sister Isabel is disgraced by a marriage resulting in her new husband’s death, Jenny becomes the daughter whose marriage will advance her family’s stature in society. With her own estate and tocher (more commonly known as a dowry), Jenny is a potential bride for the King’s brother, William de Warenne. Then she meets Tam Lin, a former nobleman squatting on her estate trapped between the earthly world and the world of the fairies, and their developing friendship and romance forces her to choose between love and the conventions of society.
Number of Pages: 258
Age Range: 15-17
Review: Combination historical fiction and fantasy, An Earthly Knight is well-written, brilliant portrait of Jenny, a female character stuck in a patriarchal society. I’m not usually a big fan of fantasy, but for me even with the parts about fairies, I was hooked into the story and reading it felt like listening to a piece of music. It flowed.
It’s like Janet McNaughton stuck a liberated, female teen into the 1160’s and then made it believable. Given the context of the book I was shocked by Jenny’s gall at times, but in the end I agreed with McNaughton’s growth of Jenny’s character and that she would have acted the way she did. Reading about Jenny was interesting and also inspiring considering the odds stacked against her during that time period.
McNaughton does an especially excellent job of really putting the reader in the time period. This was a whole world in a book, one that contained knights, kings, fairies, feudal systems, magical dresses, love and strong female characters. I loved it all.
After reading Creeps yesterday having McNaughton wrap things up on a happy note may have been overly simplistic but I did appreciate it.
This is a feel good read with insights into the female experience I would recommend to fans of fantasy and romance looking for positive female characters.
“When she remembered it now, that night had the quality of a nightmare in which something terrible is about to happen, and the dreamer knows it but can only watch helplessly.” – from An Earthly Knight by Janet McNaughton, page 69
“‘Aye, Isabel, among the nobles you are disgraced. But why? We are taught that a woman should always bow before a man of her rank or better, even when he means to harm her. But what of those who must always bow? They see you with different eyes. Isabel, to them you acted with honour. You should believe them.'” – Jenny from An Earthly Knight by Janet McNaughton, page 103
“She rose and stood behind him, leaning her cheek against his back. ‘Listen to me, Tam Lin. Even if I spend the rest of my life sleeping in William de Warenne’s bed, even if you are some place I can never reach, you are mine. You will always be mine, even if this one night is all I ever have of you.'” – Jenny from An Earthly Knight by Janet McNaughton, page 194
“But if her sister had destroyed one knight and she had saved another, Jenny knew they had both faced their fears with courage and honour, and Isabel was her equal in every regard.” – from An Earthly Knight by Janet McNaughton, page 250