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Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Review: The Dance of Death

Thirteen year old Adam has big dreams of adventure. He wants to explore the world, but it’s the year 1348 and Adam’s world is restricted to Brampton, the small village where he lives with his parents and older brother, Will, and spends his days looking after sheep and playing with his friends.

The Dance of Death takes its title from a traditional story acted out by the villagers on All Hallows Eve, as a reminder that death will come to everyone one day. In this period of time, the 1300s, most people Adam knows die before they reach forty years of age. The Dance of Death is a story that gives Adam nightmares, and Will a chance to tease him. This year, it is a story more prophetic than anyone could imagine.

When Will is sent on a journey to London to deliver the estate reports to Philip de Mandeville, who owns the village, Adam’s jealousy gets the better of him and he stows away, only to be discovered when it’s too late to send him back.

Upon reaching London, he finds it vibrant, full of new sights and experiences. It’s also easy for thieves to steal from you, and that’s what happens to Adam and Will. They find themselves at the mercy of the big city, and soon surrounded by the advancement of the Plague.

What does the future hold for Adam and his family? Will they survive? Adam’s story gives one perspective on life as this epidemic takes hold.

The Dance of Death is part of Bloomsbury’s Flashbacks series which transports readers back to different points in history through short (approximately 100 page) historical stories. In this instance, the history it focuses on is the Plague, also known as the Bubonic Plague or the Black Death, which killed over 200 million people in Europe between 1346 and 1353 - that’s half the population. It resurfaced in the 1400s, again killing great parts of the population, and once again in the 1600s. India also fought the disease in the 1800s and a form of it was recently reported in Madagascar.

This is a quick and easy story to read, and a good prompt for questions or further discussion amongst families or in classrooms. Reading The Dance of Death reminds us that we are fortunate to have the medical advances we have today, but also explores the consequences an epidemic of any kind might have.

Title: The Dance of Death
Author: Andy Croft
Publisher: Bloomsbury, $12.99 RRP
Publication Date: November 2015
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781472913654
For ages: 8-12
Type: Middle fiction

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