Merry Wanderer of the Night  + [YA]

Review: Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt

Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt is one of the most unique and beautiful stories I have ever read. While not a direct fairy tale retelling, falling more into the category of fairy tale-esque, the book reads like a fairy tale, and elements from different tales and lore find their way into Keturah's story.

Keturah is the storyteller in her small village. She tells tales around the common fire each night, enthralling the townsfolk. There is a hart that haunts the forests around the town, a hart which the Lord of the realm, a renowned hunter himself, has long hunted, but never captured. This hart often finds its way into Keturah's tales, and it is ultimately what leads Keturah into trouble. She sees the hart watching her from the woods one evening and decides to follow it, just a little ways into the wood. As is often in the case with seemingly enchanted harts, Keturah finds herself following the hart deeper and deeper into the wood, unable to stop. When she finally regains her senses, she realizes that she is hopelessly lost in the forest.

After three days of being lost in the woods, Keturah is out of strength, and knows she is going to die. Sure enough, Death comes for her. She is surprised by him, because he appears as a handsome and aloof Lord, and he tells her it is time to go. She begs and pleads for her life, and those of us near death are wont to do, and Death takes pity on the beautiful young girl. He tells Keturah that she may live if she chooses one other from her village to die in her place. But Keturah loves all the people in her village and cannot allow them to die, not even if it means that she might live.

Instead, she asks Death if she might tell him a story. He agrees and she tells him a beautiful and magical story, about life and love, one that sounds familiar, but incomplete. When he demands the ending from Keturah, she refuses to tell it, unless he allows her to live. And so, she makes a deal with Death, returning to her village for three days on a mission to find her true love. If she can find her love in three days, Death will allow her to live. And if not, she must go with him to die.

This is one of my very favorite stories. I love the air of magic within the story, even though there is no magic beyond the meetings with Lord Death. I first read this book a few years ago, and fell completely in love with the characters. Keturah is reckless, fierce, and loyal. Her two best friends are filled with goodness and love. John, the Lord's son is another fascinating character, and you watch him as he desires to fit in among the people and learn to rule them well now that he might be a wise and just ruler when his father rules no more. Even Lord Death is a fascinating character. He is the most powerful force and he knows it. Nothing can stop death, everything must eventually fall to him and yet Keturah tries to defy him. She begs and pleads and offers her stories in exchange for mercy, for life and for time.

I knew that I wanted Keturah and her story to be a part of fairy tale fortnight, because it is simply beautiful and everyone should have a chance to read it. So I decided to reread it before the event, to make sure I did the story justice in my review, and the first thought that came to mine was to Sigh and think, Oh, how I've missed you. This is a story that feels like coming home. It is a tale that perfectly fills those wanting places inside when searching for those magical tales, and it is a story that will never leave you. I think about this book all the time, and I recommend it regularly.

The writing is effortless and vivid. It begins with a prologue that sets the story up with a fairy tale feel, right from the beginning, giving you everything but that actual 'once upon a time' and when the story itself starts, you are already enchanted by her words. You are in Keturah's world, you are living in that village, watching, waiting with bated breath to discover what the future holds for Keturah. Everything feels so very real and you can feel Keturah's pain and panic as her agreement with deal draws to an end and she knows she must soon complete her task or go to her death. She is fighting death for everything she loves or may come to love and it's not always an easy struggle to watch.

This is a story of love, of hope and of almost magic, the kind of magic that we can almost find if we search for it long enough. It is a story of understanding, of personal redemption and finding happiness with what you have. The risks Keturah takes for those she loves are huge and you love her all the more for what she is willing to risk to protect others.