Friday, October 22, 2021

132. The Beatryce Prophecy

The Beatryce Prophecy. Kate DiCamillo. Illustrated by Sophie Blackall. 2021. [September] 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Answelica was a goat with teeth that were the mirror of her soul—large, sharp, and uncompromising. One of the goat’s favorite games was to lull the monks of the Order of the Chronicles of Sorrowing into a sense of complacency by arranging her features in a benign and indifferent expression. For weeks, she would bite no one. When approached, she would merely stare into the distance as if she were considering something profound. And then, when the brothers had relaxed their guard, thinking that perhaps, somehow, Answelica had changed, the goat would come from behind and butt them in the backside as hard as she was able. She was very strong, and she had a very hard head. Because of this, the goat was able to send the monks flying great distances through the air. When they landed, she bit them. She was a goat who formed peculiar and inexplicable antipathies, taking an intense dislike to certain individuals.

Premise/plot: How much do YOU need to know about a book before reading it? For some, knowing that it is Kate DiCamillo's newest book might just do the trick. Her books are just that good. For others, knowing that it is medieval fiction might be reason enough. Combined those reasons might lead to some high expectations.

Brother Edik, a monk in the Order of the Chronicles of Sorrowing, discovers a sick (possibly dying) child near the monastery being guarded by the notorious goat, Answelica. The goat has taken quite a liking (and this is the goat that hates everybody) to the young unconscious girl. It seems clear cut and obvious that it is right to take her in and try to heal her... But the girl's recovery seems to have a different set of risks... Someone--the king and his advisor(s)--are determined to find the girl. But their intentions with the girl, well, it isn't looking good.

Of course that's just the tip of the iceberg in terms of plot. The less you know the better--in my humble opinion.

My thoughts: I really love Kate DiCamillo. I don't automatically love, love, love medieval settings. I don't. But when it is beautifully written by one of my favorite authors....I'm going to lean towards loving it. I really enjoyed the writing, the relationships, and the detailing of the plot. I love how DiCamillo weaves stories together piece by piece until suddenly everything clicks into place and there's a thing of beauty.

The monk—terrified, undone—would scream, too.
The monk and the goat would then engage in a duet of screaming until the goat was satisfied and trotted away looking beatific, leaving behind her a trembling, weeping monk.
The brothers of the Order of the Chronicles of Sorrowing would have liked to butcher her, but they were afraid of the ghost of Answelica.
The monks agreed among themselves that the ghost of the goat would surely be more vicious and determined, more impossible to outwit, than the flesh-and-blood goat.
How would she seek her revenge from the afterworld?
It beggared the imagination to consider what the ghost goat would do.
And so she lived.
Which is just as well.
Which is, in fact, wonderful.
Because without the goat, Beatryce surely would have died.
And then where would we be?

All of this took place during a time of war. Sadly, this does not distinguish it from any other time; it was always a time of war.

“And what are the Chronicles of Sorrowing?” asked Beatryce.
“The Chronicles tell the story of what has happened and of things that might yet happen, those things which have been prophesied.”
“Sorrowing,” said Beatryce. The word was a heavy one. “It does not sound like a happy book, a joyful book.”
“Alas,” said Brother Edik, “it is not.”
“Well, then,” said Beatryce, “that is not a book I would care to read.”

What does it mean to be brave?
This was a question that Brother Edik asked himself as he walked through the dark woods with Jack Dory and Cannoc and Answelica.
To be brave is to not turn away.
To be brave is to go forward.
To be brave is to love.
Brother Edik was not turning away. He was going forward.
And he loved. This, Brother Edik could do—did do—best of all.
Still, he could not keep himself from trembling.
And he could not stop the words of the prophecy from tumbling through his mind:
A girl child
unseat a king
great change.

© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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