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An Earthly Knight    by Janet McNaughton order for
Earthly Knight
by Janet McNaughton
Order:  USA  Can
HarperTrophy, 2005 (2004)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Janet McNaughton has woven a tale in twelfth century Scotland, incorporating folklore and fantasy ('wee people and fairies'), as well as the reality of religious beliefs, society standards, and politics. An Earthly Knight is a retelling of the classic tale of Tam Lin.

Sixteen-year old Lady Jeanette (Jenny) Avenel must take on the duties of an eldest daughter at Langknowes, after her sister Isabel brings disgrace to the family. Bleddri, a not-so-knightly knight, lures Isabel into running away with him. But after Isabel becomes aware of Bleddri's plan to kill her for her wealth (as he did to others before her), she defends herself and kills the knight. Jenny valiantly supports her sister, even though their father ignores his first-born. A musician named Cospatric seeks shelter in return for performing ballads, and playing his harp. Isabel slowly progresses out of her melancholy, forming a bond with Cospatric. With her angelic voice she sings with the bard at household events. Through Cospatric, it is learned that the 'common folks' admire Isabel as a heroine, who defended her honor, and have written a song about her.

Jenny loves her freedom, especially the comfort and peace of 'the dark and wild heart of the forest'. There she meets Tam Lin, grandson of a noble house. Tam Lin is shunned and feared by the populace, and is controlled by the magic of a fairy queen. Carter Hall, once Tam Lin's birthplace, is now part of the Avenel properties. Beloved by Jenny, it is part of her tocher (dowry). Tam Lin and Jenny meet secretly, and fall in love. There are other plans for Jenny, however - betrothal to the king's brother and heir, Earl William de Warenne (a womanizer, not a prize catch). As the betrothal ceremony approaches, Jenny realizes she must disclose her pregnancy. Tam Lin explains his bewitchment by the fairy queen, and the danger to Jenny from that lady's jealousy. The couple devise a plan to free Tam Lin from the magic's hold, making him 'an earthly knight'.

Janet McNaughton is well-versed in Scottish history and lore, and this expertise shows in the story. Though I found it very slow paced - some characters dropped in the background too often, hampering their growth - I recommend An Earthly Knight to teens who enjoy historical fiction and folklore with romantic moments.

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