The place we’re staying at right now (while our house is getting renovated) has a big tub, and over the summer it quickly became a favorite reading spot when it was too darn hot to do anything else.
This is how I ended up reading Longbow Girl by Linda Davies. Set in the wild Welsh countryside, Merry Owen’s family is struggling to keep their small farm from the clutches of their aristocratic neighbors, the De Courcys.
The De Courcys have wanted the Owens land for generations. Originally part of the De Courcy estate, the Owens were granted ownership of the land in the 14th century, awarded to them after an Owens longbowman saved the life of the Black Prince. And for as long as the Owens swore to protect the crown with their longbow tradition, the land remains theirs.
A string of troubles may just force the Owens to sell their land to the DeCourcys, and Merry’s continued friendship with the neighbor’s son James isn’t getting them any favors. But Merry stumbles upon a curious artifact that may just save their farm, a very old book that can pay off their looming arrears.
***Slightly spoilery, but nothing you won’t find elsewhere***
Merry gets more than she bargained for, however, when the ancient text takes her back in time to the 16th century, where she must prove her prowess with the longbow to win the land for the next generations of the Owens.
This book, with its wild country setting, the archer heroine, horses, and time travel, reminds me of a lot of things: Katniss Everdeen, Merida from the movie “Brave,” and Maggie Stiefvater’s “Scorpio Races” and Raven Cycle. It’s a slow starter, meandering at times, but it pays off when you see it through.
I actually like the pace of the story — not action packed, but compelling enough for me to read in one sitting, even quite gripping at some points. I like how the “Longbow Girl” handles time travel — magical enough to get away with the concept, but not overly simplistic as it presents a bit of a paradox.
While there could have been some more growth in her character, Merry is brave and resourceful (and quite likeable), and she achieves what she sets out to do. The eyepatch (lost her eye in a longbow accident) is also unique touch — I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a one-eyed heroine before! Oh, and plus points for the subtlety of the romance — Merry and James getting together was almost a given, but I like how this isn’t the focus of the story, and rightly so.
Finally, I like how this is a standalone novel, complete in itself, but with ample room for a sequel or two. I’d love to see Merry go on more adventures, and see how far she can go with her longbow.
Longbow Girl, 4/5 stars
ARC courtesy of Scholastic