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March 7, 2011 / Chersti Nieveen

book review: Jackaroo by Cynthia Voigt

Voigt, Cynthia. Jackaroo. New York: Scholastic, 1985.  Re-released by Simon Pulse in 2003.

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Gwyn’s finger went back to the leather and she pulled it toward her. It lay loose, and she brought it slowly forward, over onto the shelf–a boot, the brown leather worn soft, a boot so long its top was folded back into a cuff, its soles well-cobbled but worn. Gwyn pushed it quickly back into its hiding place and pulled at the silky fabric. She didn’t understand what these things were doing in Old Megg’s hut, but if the silky thing was blue and was a vest with a silver clasp–

Jackaroo, she thought.

Gwyn is not easily led. When she hears talk of Jackaroo, the legendary masked outlaw who comes to the aid of those in need, she shrugs it off. She has no use for myths. But Gwyn makes a startling discovery, and she begins to believe that there may be truth in those tales. And when Gwyn’s faith starts to fail, it is Jackaroo she calls to her side. And it is Jackaroo who brings her strength, in a most unusual way . . .

The Review

Think Zorro happening the in middle ages, and you have Jackaroo. A literary historical adventure/romance that has a strong heroine who decides her own fate, and takes justice into her own hands. Though Gwyn thinks Jackaroo is just an ancient legend, she finds his clothing and decides to don the outfit to help those less fortunate. But as the book progresses, you slowly find out at that Gwyn isn’t the only one parading as Jackaroo . . . and there are dangerous consequences to putting on the mask.

I adored how the details made this book. As I turned the pages, I felt the book come alive in my imagination so that I could even smell what it was like in The Kingdom. This book kept me guessing until the end, and even after I’d put the book down, I was still thinking over what had really happened. Voigt is a master storyteller, and her words are a delight to read, giving an authentic voice to a historical novel. Not only that, but like in her other Kingdom books, she has a strong romance thread woven throughout the pages that is just delightful, giving an authentic voice to a girl struggling with a boy she thinks she likes versus the boy who is good for her. This book also takes a good look at gender roles, and this book goes beyond the normal roles of good and evil to show normal people struggling with everyday life.

While this book may be slow to some, it is definitely worth the read–and great for a student to use for the classroom, because this book makes you think. If you are a fan of Robin Hood or Zorro, this is the book for you.

Sequels: The Kingdom series includes On Fortune’s Wheel, On the Wings of a Falcon, and Elske

Note: these aren’t necessarily sequels, but companion books. They all take place in Voigt’s world of The Kingdom, and the characters from the previous book are mentioned, but most have died at the point the new book comes around. But each book is just as enthralling, and should be read. Jackaroo is technically the first, but since there is such a loose connection in the books, the order doesn’t make much difference.

Reader Age: Voigt never shies away from the truth, and this book gets violent at points, giving gruesome images of a hanging and other common occurrences in Mid-evil times. Suggested for ages 12+ though I would judge on the maturity of the reader, as the themes in the books get dark.     

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6 Comments

  1. Liz / Mar 7 2011 8:40 am

    Never head of this book. I wonder if my library has it. Thanks for the rec!

  2. Leisha Maw / Mar 7 2011 11:59 am

    I’ve never heard of it either. I’m so glad you highlighted it! I can’t wait to get my hands on it. 🙂

  3. Karen Krueger / Mar 10 2011 10:14 am

    This book and ON FORTUNE’S WHEEL were two of my favorite books when I was a teen! 🙂 I didn’t realize there were more companion books–I’ll have to check them out. 🙂 Thanks for doing the review and letting other people know about this great book.

  4. Chersti Nieveen / Mar 10 2011 11:24 am

    Liz – I really hope you enjoy them. I love how deep they are.

    Leisha – They are absolutely amazing, and if you end up reading them I’d love to know what you think!

    Karen – They were my favorites as a teen, too! I just love them, and actually own several copies of each. Because I’m a nerd like that, and every time I see one at DI, I’m just like: it’s only .50 cents!

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