Hush: An Irish Princess Tale is the next title in Donna Jo Napoli’s growing list of young adult retellings. Many of her previous retellings offered complex stories of many well-known fairy/folktales, such as Zel, a retelling of Rapunzel; Spinners, a retelling of Rumplestiltskin; Beast, a retelling of Beauty and the Beast; Bound, a retelling of Cinderella; and Breath, a retelling of The Tale of the Pied Piper, but this one is much less familiar. Napoli has taken the seed of this story from the Icelandic Saga of the People of Laxardal. In the Saga there is mention of a woman named Melkorka, who is bought from a Russian slave merchant. Since Melkorka doesn’t speak, her new master knows nothing of her past until he hears her speaking in Gaelic to her two-year-old son. She explains to her master that she was an Irish princess captured by a slave trader.
Donna Jo Napoli once again offers a complex story, combining actual history with folktale elements to describe Melkorka’s plight as she is kidnapped and learns to live among people she once considered savage and inhuman. Even without the dialog of her main character, Napoli has crafted a relatable, rich protagonist. Melkorka’s vow of silence wins her an indescribable power among her captors. This power, even slight, lets Melkorka believe she can make a difference in her world. Fans of Donna Jo Napoli will happily count this tale among their favorites. Ages 12 and up.