Cover image for Elske
Voigt, Cynthia.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Atheneum Books, 1999.
Physical Description:
245 pages ; 25 cm
Thirteen-year-old Elske escapes rape and certain death at the hands of the leaders of her barbaric society and later becomes handmaiden to a rebellious noblewoman whose rightful throne together they reclaim.
General Note:
"An Anne Schwartz book."
Reading Level:
980 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 6.3 14.0 32730.

Reading Counts RC High School 7.1 18 Quiz: 19081 Guided reading level: NR.
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Two Women "Elske --" a girl with no future, until her grandmother's sacrifice saves her from certain death "Beriel --" an imperious princess, determined to claim the kingdom that is her birthright Fate brings them together, both exiles, one servant to the other. To Beriel, the mistress, Elske offers steadfast loyalty and courage -- hard to come by in her dangerous quest to regain the throne she has been denied by treachery. To Elske, the handmaiden, Beriel's proud example provides a perhaps even more precious gift -- the strength to find her true self.

Author Notes

Cynthia Voigt was born on February 25, 1942 in Boston, Massachusetts. She received a bachelor's degree from Smith College, did graduate work at St. Michael's College, and later received a teacher's certification from Christian Brothers College. After college, she worked for an advertising agency. Before becoming a full-time author, she was a secretary and a high school English teacher. Her first book, Homecoming, was published in 1981.

Her children's books address such issues at child abuse and racism, topics that are not often talked about in books designed for children. She is the author of numerous books including the Bad Girls series, the Tillerman Cycle series, and the Kingdom series. She won the Notable Children's Trade Book in the field of social studies for Homecoming, the Newbery Medal, ALA in 1983 for Dicey's Song, and the Edgar Allan Poe Award in 1984 for The Callender Papers. In 1995, she received the MAE Award.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 7^-12. In the fourth and final installment of The Kingdom series, 12-year-old Elske flees her barbaric Volkaric homeland to escape death. In civilized Trastad, despite being a servant and an outsider, her honesty, intelligence and perspective eventually bring respect. Then Elske becomes handmaiden to Beriel, an exiled, vengeful noblewoman determined to reclaim her birthright, the kingdom's throne. Overcoming their differences, the two develop a trusting friendship, leading Elske to accompany Beriel to the kingdom on a dangerous but ultimately rewarding quest. In elegant, appropriately archaic prose, Voigt vividly describes and immerses readers in the people, traditions, and histories of imaginary lands. Elske is a brave, independent character, a notable addition to Voigt's long line of strong female protagonists who overcome odds and stereotypes to effect positive change for themselves and others. Though containing some unsettling incidents of violence, albeit fairly typical of medieval sensibilities, this compelling fantasy effectively stands on its own, all the while providing a satisfying series conclusion. --Shelle Rosenfeld

Publisher's Weekly Review

The fourth and final title in Voigt's Kingdom cycle (begun with Jackaroo) is thrilling, from its dramatic opener to its stunning climax. Newcomers to the Kingdom books can read it with as much pleasure as fans of the entire series (and without ruining for themselves the surprises of those previous works). Set in an imaginary continent that resembles medieval Europe, the story begins in the brutal realm of the Wolfers, a ruthless people among whom 12-year-old Elske has been raised and, horrifyingly, chosen for a sacrificial death. How Elske escapes this fate is the first of many ingeniously plotted turns, reversals that depend on the heroine's intelligence and determination rather than coincidence or authorial sleight-of-hand. There is much to marvel at. Voigt demonstrates a remarkable breadth of imagination in dreaming up the customs of the various lands Elske moves through; e.g., a Scandinavian-type city builds a thriving economy by hosting biannual "courting winters" for young marriageable, wealthy foreigners. The cast also includes a princess wrongfully deprived of a throne (and willing to go to war to claim it) and a man worthy of Elske but chosen for one of the princess's sisters. The characterizations are as sharp and uncompromising as Voigt's readers have come to expect, and the narration never tips the author's hand. This spellbinding work continually challenges readers to keep up with its far-seeing, swift-thinking protagonist. Ages 12-up. (Oct.) FYI: The Vermeer masterpiece that appears on the jacket, Head of a Girl (a painting that also appears this season on the cover of the adult novel Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier), links Elske with the simultaneously reissued paperback of another novel in the Kingdom cycle, On Fortune's Wheel (S&S/ Aladdin, $5.50 -82957-4), the jacket of which features Vermeer's Woman Reading a Letter. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 9 Up-Voigt returns to the Kingdom (eventually) in Elske, a loosely related companion to Jackaroo (Atheneum, 1985), The Wings of a Falcon (Scholastic, 1993), and On Fortune's Wheel (Atheneum, 1990). Raised within the warrior society of the Wolfers, Elske flees her native land to avoid certain death. She finds her destiny as the servant to Beriel, the banished heir apparent of the Kingdom. As the two make their way to confront the uncrowned queen's treacherous brother Guerric, they must rely on Beriel's force of will as well as on Elske's devotion and resourcefulness. Once again, this talented author offers readers a richly dense, compelling tale set in a strange and far-off land. Violence and cruelty loom large, as do trust and honor, loyalty and love. The writing is at times breathtaking in its brusque assumption that young people are ready to contemplate the horrors of battle and the realities of rape and infanticide. Yet Voigt's descriptions of violence done and imagined are never graphic or sensationalized. And there is, of course, much more to the story. The language is stately and evocative, well suited to the complex plot and unusual setting. Characterization is richly detailed, with human flaws and foibles clearly drawn. Readers are plunged quickly into the drama but, overall, the pace is almost leisurely. Familiarity with the earlier novels is not necessary and it seems likely that those encountering the Kingdom for the first time in Elske will seek out the previous titles as well.-Lisa Dennis, The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.