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The Plague
By Joanne Dahme

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The Plague

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The Plague
By Joanne Dahme
Read How You Want, (2010)
Easy Read Large Print, in 16 Point
(Originally Published in Standard Print by Running Press Book Publishers)
ISBN: 978-1458779731
Genre: Young Adult - Historical Fiction

Reviewed by Simone Bonim - October 6, 2010

The Plague, by Joanne Dahme, is a work of historical fiction with a gritty bite. Written for young adults, this story will appeal to adults as well, as the story is entertaining and serves to provide an interesting glimpse at life in Europe during the bubonic plague (Yersinia pestis) epidemic that began in 1348 and which killed upwards to half the population of Europe!

As the story opens, Nell has had the misfortune, or fortune, depending upon one's outlook, to look near enough like Princess Joan, the daughter of King Edward III, to be her twin. Her resemblance to the princess causes her to be selected to act as the princess' body double - which basically means that it is Nell's job to take the princess' place when it is deemed too dangerous for the princess to appear in person. In this role, fifteen-year-old Nell, is ordered to accompany Princess Joan to Spain, where she is to marry the Prince of Castile.

Sounds easy enough. However, this story takes place in the fourteenth century, when the Black Death (Bubonic Plague) was ravishing both England and the European continent. This is a fact that is all to real for Nell and her brother George, for the plague has killed their parents, and soon takes the life of Princess Joan. With Joan dead, her marriage to Prince Pedro of Castile should have been called off. But the Black Prince, Joan's brother, decides that Nell must become Joan, for real, and marry Prince Pedro. Nell knows, however, that not only is this morally wrong, but also that no matter how closely she resembles Joan, there is no way that a poor girl could ever hope to fool the Prince into believing that she is really Joan, and who knows what the consequences will be once he finds out. Accompanied by her brother George and aided by a host of characters ranging from a gravedigger to a Castilian minstrel, Nell contrives to escape from the Black Prince's clutches and get back to England in order to tell the King the truth about Joan's death.

Princess Joan was a very real person. She was born around 1334, and died in 1348, from the Black Death, illustrating how the disease attacked, and killed, both rich and poor with equal vigor. As with the Joan of the story, the real Princess Joan was engaged to marry Pedro (Peter) of Castile and left England for Spain with a large retinue, planning to make a stop first in France before going onto Spain. Joan never left France, as she died there, of the plague, in September of 1348. Like Joan, there are several other real life characters in this book, and the framework of the story is well founded in historical fact. However, Nell, her brother, and their adventures, are pure fantasy. Fantasy to which Dahme has added some supernatural elements to spice up the story. This combination of fact and fantasy helps to give this story its gritty feel and mesmerizing story line that will delight not only fans of historical fiction, but reluctant readers as well!

The Plague is available from Read How You Want, an on-demand publisher that makes books available in a variety of formats including Braille, DAISY, and five different large print formats. This range of formats makes this, and other books, available not only to visually impaired individuals, but also anyone with a reading or physical disability that makes reading standard print books difficult.

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