Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Book Review: The Hangman in the Mirror by Kate Cayley

The Hangman in the Mirror
by Kate Cayley
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Ages: 13 and up
I received an advance e-copy for review from Netgalley.

A strong-willed 16-year-old girl fights for survival in 18th-century North America.
Françoise Laurent has never had an easy life. The only surviving child of a destitute washerwoman and wayward soldier, she must rely only on herself to get by. When her parents die suddenly from the smallpox ravishing New France, Françoise sees it as a chance to escape the life she thought she was trapped in.
Seizing her newfound opportunity, Françoise takes a job as an aide to the wife of a wealthy fur trader. The poverty-ridden world she knew transforms into a strange new world full of privilege and fine things -- and of never having to beg for food. But Françoise's relationships with the other servants in Madame Pommereau's house are tenuous, and Madame Pommereau isn't an easy woman to work for. When Françoise is caught stealing a pair of her mistress's beautiful gloves, she faces a future even worse than she could have imagined: thrown in jail, she is sentenced to death by hanging. Once again, Françoise is left to her own devices to survive . . . Is she cunning enough to convince the prisoner in the cell beside her to become the hangman and marry her, which, by law, is the only thing that could save her life?

Based on an actual story and filled with illuminating historical detail, The Hangman in the Mirror transports readers to the harsh landscape of a new land that is filled with even harsher class divisions and injustices.

My Thoughts:

I love historical fiction and this sounded like a very interesting story in the genre. The author's portrayal of 18th century Montreal was stark and dirty with wonderful descriptions. The characters were well-written and very believable, but I never really clicked with them. Françoise is determined and intelligent, but she is also abrasive and manipulative. I never liked her quite as much as I wanted to.

Jean, the young man imprisoned next to her, complimented her personality very well. He had a mixture of fear and courage that felt very real. Except for a brief encounter and a glimpse or two, you don't see much of him until over halfway through the book. From the description this book sounds like a romance, but it really isn't. They do not profess undying love and they hardly know each other. But there is hope, and I love an ending with hope. I don't know if Françoise and Jean were happy, but I like to believe so.

I would recommend this book to those who enjoy realistic, gritty historical fiction with strong and interesting characters.

Content Ratings: Profanity, Sexuality and Violence
1 (mild) through 10 (extreme).

I rate it a 3.10 for some mild swearing and one worse insult.

I give it a 2.10 for references to prostitution.

I give it a 5.10 for a hanging, death from disease and references to a duel.

                                     Lieder Madchen

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