Reviews for Executioner's Daughter


Booklist Monthly Selections - #1 April 2000
Gr. 5^-8. Set during the thirteenth century, this is the story of Lily, whose father is Lord Dunsmore's executioner. Lily's parents, especially her mother who helps with the executioner's duties, try to shield Lily from the horrid particulars. But when her mother dies, Lily realizes that she is the one who will now be assisting as her father sets off the gallows or chops off a head. In some ways, this reflective piece is more about mood and place than action. Lily lives quietly, tending her animals and learning herbal medicine. A young boy becomes something of a friend, but mostly Lily is reviled by the villagers. Williams captures both the beauty of the forest where Lily lives and the isolation of her life. The scene where Lily attends her father at an execution is vivid and horrifying. Lily's resolve to leave her father and escape her fate seems somewhat rushed, and readers will be longing to know more about the kind of life she forges for herself. An epilogue gives a hint, but a sequel would be welcome. See the Read-alikes column on the opposite page for more fiction set in the Middle Ages. ((Reviewed April 1, 2000)) Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2000 Fall
Lily, who works in her parents' apothecary and heals injured animals, lives as an outcast because her father is the town executioner. When her mother dies and she must begin assisting her father in public executions, Lily makes a crucial decision about her future. The spare prose unobtrusively depicts the medieval setting and quietly charts Lily's journey from rigid acceptance of society's norms to more equivocal understanding. Copyright 2000 Horn Book Guide Reviews

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Kirkus Reviews 2000 May #2
Williams (ABC Kids, below, etc.) takes readers back to a squalid, brutal 15th century for this heavy tale of a family tormented by its dreadful occupation. Because Lily's father and mother are the local lord's executioners, she and her parents must live outside the town walls, banned from the church, feared, and shunned by all. Ironically, these killers are also healers, making ends meet between executions by providing occasional furtive visitors with herbal poultices and remedies. Lily's father takes refuge in drink; she and her mother in each other and in caring for injured wild animals. Then the fragile equilibrium that Lily has built shatters as, in succession, her mother sickens and dies, peer pressure destroys a budding friendship with a town child, and her naïve notion that criminals automatically deserve what they get unravels when she witnesses horrible punishments meted out for trivial offenses, then learns that her own mother escaped hanging by marrying her father. She leaves in the end, hoping to escape the stigma. Despite a contrived final hint that Lily has made a new and happier life for herself, this brief story is so weighed down by its tormented cast and narrow setting that it's more akin to John Morressey's grim Juggler (1996) than Karen Cushman's Midwife's Apprentice (1995). (Fiction. 11-13) Copyright 2000 Kirkus Reviews

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School Library Journal Reviews 2000 June
Gr 6-8-A historical novel set in England in 1450. Gentle, sensitive Lily has the misfortune to be the daughter of the village executioner. The other children taunt and torment her and her only friends are the wounded forest animals that she nurses back to health. When her mother dies, Lily knows that it is her destiny to replace her as the executioner's assistant. Suddenly the ugliness from which she has been shielded all her life becomes all too real. She faces the difficult choice of remaining loyal to her loving but remote father or leaving to try to make a better life for herself. Ironies abound in the deceptively simple story. Lily's parents also earn a living by selling herbs and are expert healers. Her father is reviled by the citizens of the town, but they turn out in droves to watch him work. He is viewed by all as a brute, yet he must drink heavily in order to carry out his duties. Lily is a strong, insightful child, wise beyond her years yet still vulnerable. This well-written story is an excellent vehicle for demonstrating the harsh realities of life in the Middle Ages. It can be used effectively with Karen Cushman's Catherine Called Birdy (1994) and The Midwife's Apprentice (1995, both Clarion) and serves as a curriculum link as well as a pleasurable read. A brief afterword provides needed historical background.-Bruce Anne Shook, Mendenhall Middle School, Greensboro, NC Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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VOYA Reviews 2000 October
Lily lives with her mother and father in England during the Middle Ages. The family resides outside the high walls that surround the town, and they keep to themselves. Lily's parents maintain an apothecary shop where they prepare herbs for medicinaluse, but her father's real occupation is executioner. Lily has little contact with anyone except her parents because her father's job makes others fear and avoid the family. When her mother dies, Lily is forced to become the executioner's assistant.She must help her father when he goes to town to build a gallows and must cut off the hand of a man caught stealing pies. There are many good stories set in the Middle Ages, but this tale is exceptional. The character of Lily is developed well as she gathers herbs, wanders alone in the forest, and tends to injured animals. She eventually becomes friends with John, aboy who is mistreated at home and needs an understanding friend. She teaches him how to care for the animals she nurses, and she compliments him on the good job he does. All occurs against the dark backdrop of her father's job. The author reveals tothe reader a side of the Middle Ages that is rarely seen in young adult fiction. Williams does not overdramatize Lily's situation, but she makes it clear that there was an ever-present dark element to the period. The book will appeal to readers withan interest in the Middle Ages, but it is such a good story that many will enjoy it if only they find out about it. This story has a place in any school or public library.-Sue Krumbein. Copyright 2000 Voya Reviews

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