GIRL IN A CAGE
By Jane Yolen And Robert J Harris
A review by children’s author Alan Dapré
Marjorie, only daughter of King Robert de Brus of Scotland, is on the run. Her father is a marked man, hunted by Edward 1 of England who is determined to crush any hint of rebellion. Self-styled ‘Hammer of the Scots’, Edward will stop at nothing to rule on his terms.
Though the year is 1306, the narrative weaves through time and place. It begins with Marjorie, imprisoned in a metal cage, tormented by the locals, the weather and Edward Longshanks – an aged and embittered King. Flashbacks reveal how the young princess came to be imprisoned.
The treatment of Marjorie is brutal, designed to sap her strength and break her spirit so she will accede to King Edward’s will. He doesn’t reckon on the inner courage this girl possesses or her ability to inspire others to rally round, even at their own peril.
Marjorie’s curiosity and youthful precociousness inevitably give way to a brooding, more desperate outlook. Weighed down with fear and despair, she transforms from a naive, carefree child into a troubled but courageous soul. Despite everything, the imprisoned princess carries a spark of hope in her heart; convinced her father will one day rule and bring peace back to the land.
The narrative references historical events and explores the nature of domination, rebellion and subjugation, while hinting at parallels with modern day politics.
After a deliberately slow start – giving readers time to relate to the characters and the historical setting – the pace increases. The final chapters fly by as the momentum and uncertainty builds to a satisfying and emotionally charged conclusion.
At times dark and reflective, this fictional account brings the past to life.