In a distant time and far-off kingdom, life is hard. People don’t have enough to eat, and winter is upon them. There’s little that offers hope, and many turn to the legends of Jackaroo — the masked outlaw hero who rides at night giving aid to the helpless and coin to the destitute — for solace. But Gwyn, the Innkeeper’s daughter — sensitive, industrious, and independent — is too practical to believe such tales.
But when a snowstorm forces her and a young Lordling to seek refuge in an abandoned house, Gwyn wonders if perhaps she has been too cynical. Hidden away in an old forgotten cupboard, Gwyn discovers a package — a cloak, a mask, a sword...Jackaroo? Could the stories be true?
It takes a shock and a devastating betrayal for Gwyn to begin to understand what — and who — Jackaroo really is. And she comes to know what part she will play in discovering the truth, such as it may be, behind the legends. (From Amazon)
Recommended by: Abby the Librarian
The first Cynthia Voigt book I ever read was Homecoming, and I think I was in elementary school when I did. It was slightly traumatic– a parent ABANDONS her kids?! They don’t just run away like in the rest of the fun orphan books I enjoyed? OMG! (The movie was really good, too, by the way, but similarly traumatic.)
Anyway, Homecoming is basically why I haven’t read another Cynthia Voigt book before now. Not that Homecoming was a bad book! It’s just, y’know. I was worried.
Luckily Jackaroo is almost completely different from ! For one thing, it’s a (kinda) historical fiction novel with vaguely medieval overtones. For another, it wasn’t traumatic at all! Really, the only things Jackaroo and have in common is that they both have strong female characters and they’re both very well written.
I adore Jackaroo. I can’t talk about it too much because I might ruin the plot, but basically: it’s awesome. When I first started reading it, I was a little worried because it seemed a) super slow and b) another “damsel is in distress and needs rescusing by manly hero” kind of book. I suppose I should have know better, having read Homecoming which is all about rescuing yourself and taking control of your life, but I read it over 10 years ago! That’s long enough for me to forget anything except my own name, really.
Jackaroo does not have damsels in distress. It has PEASANTS in distress, but the people who (mostly) help the peasants? Are also peasants. Awesome!
Despite the whole peasants-rescuing-peasants thing, however, Jackaroo doesn’t let you forget that in the olden days, royalty had the last say in, like everything. In Jackaroo, peasants aren’t even allowed to learn how to read, and they sure as hell aren’t voting in any sort of election. Everything extremely controlled, but there are pockets of freedom and I appreciated how Gwyn, especially, made good use of those pockets to better life for herself, her family, and her neighbors.
I love Gwyn, who’s starts out a little bit naive but gets savier by the end of the book. She might be a little bit too modern, I guess– she doesn’t want to get married because it’ll impede her freedom, which is pretty radical for a pseudo-medieval setting. But she’s not stupid, and she comes to her decision to not marry after a lot of thinking and considering every option and consequence. It was so nice to have a rational (lady) thinker in a book! (Perhaps I’ve been reading slightly too many YA books lately, where all the teenagers seem to be so full of hormones I’m surprised they can even figure out what they want for breakfast each morning.)
Gwyn may not know how to read but she sure knows how to do a lot of other things, including how to fight! She can kick some ass, for sure– whoops, that’s getting a bit close to a spoiler, there. Er.
Moving on. Besides Gwyn, I love the secondary characters (except maybe Gwyn’s spoiled brother, Tad), the setting (pseudo-medieval times, somewhere in a vaguely European land), the ACTION and ADVENTURE! And the emotions! So many emotions (and a bit of heartache). It got to be pretty powerful stuff, sometimes, enough to make me turn the pages really quickly so I could find out what happened next FASTER.
You shouldn’t think Jackaroo is ALL action/adventure, though. Some people might argue it’s not action/adventure at all! But I’m a bit focused on the action/adventure part because, uh, I haven’t read THAT many books (that aren’t paranormal/paranormal romances) with heroines doing action-y things, so I was really excited when it happened in Jackaroo.
There are so many exciting things in here, and Cynthia Voigt does it all so well.
Anyway, what I love even MORE than the action is Gwyn’s character growth, and how she became much more like herself than she was at the beginning of the book. It also had some really insightful things to say about human nature, and mythology, and so on. I loved especially how it showed that people have layers, and multiple reasons for doing things, and that you can’t always know what a person’s like just from their job or station in life.
The worst thing about Jackaroo? When I got to end of it and realized there’d be no more. It’s a series, yeah, but I don’t think the protagonists are the same in every book– and I’ll miss Gwyn a lot.
Read: January 23, 2011
Credit: Author photo yanked from author’s website.