At the heart of THE JEWEL TREE is an heirloom so precious that the last remaining members of the Ryder family will do almost anything to keep it in their possession.
But how long should a young girl work to earn back the emblem of her mother's soul? And is any task to menial?
When Leda sees the hummingbird charm dangling from wealthy Lord Caitiff's shriveled earlobe, she swears she will labor a year and a day to reclaim it. She is prepared to do whatever the old man asks--until the day he asks too much.
In a world of dark curses and ancient grudges, Leda and her handsome young uncle are sometimes hard pressed to distinguish between appearance and reality. Not all that glitters is gold--and gold is never worth more than flesh and blood. This mini-novel about the redemptive power of love will delight readers who appreciate a little magic in their lives.
This is a wonderful young adult fantasy novella. I really enjoyed it.
Leda Ryder is a young girl of fifteen when the story starts, but the tale covers a few years. She is a wonderful character and I really liked her. She was orphaned at a young age and has been raised by her uncle, Alexander. Unfortunately, he has a gambling addiction and has squandered the family money until there is nothing of value except an heirloom called the Jewel Tree (fashioned from gold), which holds little charms set with precious and semi-precious stones. He sells these charms to Lord Caitiff to pay for his debts. When she finds out what her uncle has done, she finds herself working for Lord Caitiff in an attempt to earn the charms back.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author, with no expectation of a positive review.
This is an intriguing and charming novella. I must admit that I was not sure what time period this book was set in at first, then I realised that it must be in Victorian or early Edwardian times as there is mention of horses and carriages but no cars.
The story is mostly told through the eyes of Leda, though Alexander and Lord Caitiff also have scenes seen through their points of view. I found myself hooked from the first page. However, I also found myself confused at the relationship between Leda and Alexander. The author introduces Alexander as Leda's uncle, but a couple of times they are referred to as siblings. It's as if the author couldn't decide what their relationship should be and kept changing it and never corrected it or missed it during editing. Nevertheless, they come across as a loving and close family even though it's just the two of them. Lord Caitiff is a mysterious benefactor and the reader never really gets to know him until close to the end of the tale. There is a good reason for this and the author uses this mystery to good effect as there is a slight twist that surprised me. There are also other characters that intrigued me, like Felicity, Lord Caitiff's daughter who is unspeakably ugly. This story has a "Beauty and the Beast" feel to it, and was further enhanced by the inclusion of a curse and a sorceress called Iona Grimm. What her relationship to Lord Caitiff is, I'll leave you to find out for yourselves.
I reached the end of the book with mixed feelings; I would have liked for the story to be a little longer as felt it was rushed in places but happy at the way it concluded.
Lee Summers has written an intriguing debut YA fantasy novella. However, this author has written other works under the name of Elise Chidley, though I have never read them. I love her writing style, which is fast paced. However, as I mentioned above, I found some of the story a little rushed at times. Due to the confusion over the relationship between Leda and Alexander, I found myself stumbling and re-reading parts which disrupted the flow. I think that once this issue has been addressed, the story should flow more smoothly. Having said all that, I would definitely consider reading more of her books in the future.
There is no explicit or overt mention of sexual activity. However, there is one instance where Lord Caitiff propositions Leda. Nevertheless, this book is aimed at young adult readers and as such, I recommend this book to readers aged 12 upwards. Readers younger than this may struggle with certain words they may not be familiar with, but then again, it depends on their reading level, so parental advice is advised. I also recommend this book to adults who love to read young adult romance/fantasy or fairytale re-tellings. - Lynn Worton