QUEST FOR A MAID by Frances Mary Hendry
Kirkus Star


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In the splendid tradition of Scott and Stevenson, a grand 13th-century adventure, firmly grounded in historical events and authentic detail. Hendry, whose Quest for a Kelpie (1988) was also a gripping, beautifully wrought story, begins with one of many intensely dramatic incidents. At nine, protagonist Meg overhears her beloved oldest sister Inge ""kill a king"": foretelling that a noble visitor's son (Robert the Bras) will be king of Scotland, she calls on evil forces that cause Alexander III, riding home to his bride, to plunge from a cliff. Soon after, Meg's rescue of Davie, young son of Patrick Spens (of the well-known ballad), results in her betrothal to him; five years later, when Patrick sails to fetch ""the Maid"" (a little Norwegian princess, whom Edward I hopes to marry to his son while also making her queen of the Scots), Davie, Meg, and Peem (her servant and their close friend) go with him. The four young people, almost the only survivors of the ill-fated voyage homeward, escape--only to fall into the clutches of the still, contending Scottish nobles. With consummate skill, Hendry makes each breathtaking incident intrinsic to her larger pattern, building characters and relationships with each new turn. The love and veiled venom between Meg and her witch-sister--an old nurse has foretold that one will be the death of the other, and there are some near misses before their climactic final encounter--is beautifully developed and especially subtle. Meanwhile, Meg herself grows from a vibrant, headstrong child into a woman who has learned not to blame herself for fate's tragedies, and who is endearingly surprised to discover how many have come to love her. Though this is more accessible than the earlier novel, a glossary is included. A fine achievement; great for booktalking or reading aloud.

Pub Date: July 11th, 1990
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux