Ok, I'll admit it. I hadn't heard of Martine Leavitt's Keturah and Lord Death before the National Book Awards. Ok. Really, I hadn't heard of Leavitt before. But hey! Now I have! I'll also admit that, while it may not go with the poor granddaughter of a midwife, I very much want to touch the fabric of that dress. It's just so shiny. I live a tactile existence.
Keturah foolishly follows a gigantic deer deep into the forest where she gets lost. Nearing death, Death comes to claim her, bringing to the forefront a skill she has always, though unknowingly, possessed: she can sense death. Now she can see him too. Keturah makes a deal with the handsome cloaked entity. If she can find her one True Love before the next sunset (technically, "when the shadow of the forest touches your cottage."), he will spare her.
It is very much a fairy tale. A dark fairy tale - as they were intended. The tone and language is perfect for what Leavitt was going for. While the plot is seemingly simple - Keturah must find her love (is it the young lord?), save her beloved village (who now think she's dangerous), and her own (borrowed) life - Leavitt allows for several plausible endings. She kept me (and I like to think I'm pretty accurate at guessing how things will turn out) wavering. I didn't know where she would go, and, more importantly, I didn't know where I WANTED her to go. That's fine storytelling people. I trusted her to make the right decision, whatever that was.
I think that this is one of those teen books you can easily give to adults, fans of Robin McKinley, and even, I think, Katherine Sturtevant. But the latter may just be because of my recent review and it's place in my head.
nota bene: OMG did you follow the link to Robin McKinley? Doesn't Dragonhaven look awesome?! All of this makes me want to reread Hero & Blue Sword as an adult...