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Date Posted: 10:53:24 09/26/03 Fri
Author: Syl
Subject: The Dungeon by Lynne Reid Banks

Here's a new review from Serena. Thanks, Serena!

The Dungeon by Lynne Reid Banks
Genre: Childrenís Fiction
Publisher: Harper Collins

This is definitely an older child's book, and according to the grade levels on every book at my children's school, it is at least 5 grade, 8th month reading level book. Definitely not something to read to the littlings...but something your Jr. High schooler would enjoy if they are interested in Scotland, China, or history in general. It is written by the same woman who wrote the Indian in the Cupboard series of books. The book is loaded with historical references, and factual interpretations of situations of the time period, such as the tradition of binding women's feet in China. But it isn't so overloaded with these bits that it drags the story down.

This book is set a LONG time ago, when the silk road to China was first opening up & long before European men & women made that journey on a regular basis and the two cultures were still suffering culture shock from one another.

There are 3 main characters in the story:

MacLennan-a Scottish laird with a hard heart & terrible past...
Fin-his young stable-boy...
Peony-a Chinese girl whom MacLennan buys for his personal slave.

The book opens on a scene where MacLennan, bent on revenge for an unknown wrong that MacInnes, a rival laird, caused him, is directing the building of a fortified castle and dungeon. Shortly thereafter MacLennan leaves the building of the structure in the hands of well paid servants and heads off to bury his sorrows in adventure in a place he has only heard of...Chi-na.

There he becomes acquainted with the culture, the people, and the armies of the Chinese and Mongols. He is a hard man, bent on revenge, and when he comes across the girl Peony, he buys her as his personal slave. She is treated badly by MacLennan, but he is a young soul so she forgives him his many wrongs. They adventure together about the Chinese country until MacLennan decides that time is right to return to Scotland, and the book follows that journey as well. Once back in his new castle MacLennan's revenge plan is put into action with disastrous results, but not before Peony & Fin become the best of friends.

This book has a tragic ending, and the moral of the tale for young readers is to NEVER let revenge become your sole motivator in life. You never know what exactly revenge will twist your soul into. But it also shows some Chinese philosophies, such as the belief in reincarnation and how old or young a soul is determining the ability of the person in ownership of that soul to proceed past the difficulties in life. It highlights the differences in looks between the young people, Fin & Peony, and how those really don't matter in the scheme of their friendship.

On the whole, an enlightening read for children of a certain age group who can clearly see the effects of differences between people after 9-11. And in my opinion, a definite guide to how they might better look upon our nationís differences as a boon instead of a worthy reason for making war.

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[> Hey Serena, I haven't heard of this book yet but am always on the lookout for good stories for young people (as I have a few of them living here, LOL). I'll definitely keep an eye out for it. Do you know the publication date? Was just wandering is I might find it in my SHB store. -- Keira (waving at Serena), 06:45:56 09/27/03 Sat

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[> [> Keira, just had a look at both amazons. According to amazon.com, The Dungeon in hardback was released in October, 2002. On amazonuk, the paperback release is November 2003. Hope that helps some. -- Syl, 10:05:08 09/27/03 Sat

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[> I sent this on to Little Judie, she LOVED Indian in the Cupboard. :D -- Judie, 02:59:10 09/28/03 Sun

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[> I know I am late - but I just reserved this at the library - my kids both loved to read historical fiction -- DebraMc, 16:45:02 10/05/03 Sun

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