(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)
The year is 1162. Sixteen-year-old Lady Jeanette Avenel has always enjoyed her freedom as second daughter of a minor Norman nobleman in Teviotdale, Scotland. But after her sister, Isabel, disgraces the family, Jenny is suddenly thrust into the role of eldest daughter. Now Jenny has been chosen as a potential bride to the heir of the king of Scotland. While learning the customs of the royal court, Jenny is drawn to a mysterious young man rumoured to have been kidnapped by fairies, not knowing his past holds a secret that threatens everyone close to him—including Jenny.
An Earthly Knight is one of those books that stays with you, even years later. I decided to re-read it a few weeks ago and it was just as good as I remember.
Based off the ballads Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight and Tam Lin, it is both a mixture of historical fiction and fantasy. Since I have never read either of these ballads, I will not comment on how close An Earthly Knight sticks to them because I have no idea. However, I do recognize many fairy tale elements, like evil fairies and false love, so readers who love fairy tales will also enjoy this book.
Lady Jeanette, usually called Jenny, is the wonderful main character of this novel. She is three dimensional, strong for a woman of her time and does not fall instantly in love with Tam Lin. Her sister Isabel is actually my favourite character because although she is only a secondary character, Janet McNaughton did not neglect her character development. Or the character development of any other secondary characters, for that matter.
An Earthly Knight may be a bit slow-paced for some readers because of the descriptive writing style, but I still enjoyed it. Janet McNaughton draws her readers into a world where history and myth collide, where love and loyalty are put to the test and traditions are challenged. If you like fairy tale re-tellings, fantasy, and/or historical fiction, this is the book for you. As long as you don’t mind a little cliché, that is.
I give this book 5/5 stars.