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on October 10, 2007
What would you do if you were torn away from your life and everything you knew and forced into slavery? If you were taken to new places where people spoke different languages than you, how would you persevere?

Meet Melkorka, the oldest daughter of an Irish king. As members of royalty, Melkorka and her brother, Nuada, and sister, Brigid, enjoy life at the top of the social structure. In Dublin, travelers from around the world gather to sell their wares. The "heathen" Vikings are among them. Melkorka wants nothing more for her birthday than to visit the stores in Dublin with her family and find the perfect brooch for her cape. The trip ends tragically when her brother is attacked in one of the shops. Although Nuada has survived, he is disfigured and, therefore, no longer able to be the future king.

Melkorka's father, the king, develops a plan for revenge against the Viking offenders. The plan involves luring a Viking ship to their town. Melkorka and her younger sister, Brigid, are sent away in the dark of night to assure their safety.

Before they can reach their destination, Melkorka and Brigid are abducted and taken aboard a ship bound for an unknown destination. Although her instinct is to announce her royal status and demand to be treated as such, Melkorka succumbs to the hints from Brigid and the word she has heard her mother utter so often, "Hush." She becomes silent, refusing to speak to her abductors, the other prisoners, or even to scream at the horrors she sees inflicted upon others.

While Brigid manages a daring escape, Melkorka remains captive, forming silent bonds with those she is held prisoner with and captivating one of her abductors. Her silence becomes her strength, an unbreakable and enticing gift. But how will a princess adapt to life as a slave? Will she ever escape or will she remain silenced forever?

HUSH is based on an Icelandic folk tale. Donna Jo Napoli has gone to great lengths to create a story for the princess/slave described in the tale. Her writing draws you into the story; you can almost feel the cold air from the deck of the Viking ship. This is an amazing tale of strength and perseverance in the face of insurmountable challenges. A highly recommended reading experience.

Reviewed by: JodiG.
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on October 29, 2007
I didn't really know what to expect from Hush Having never read a Napoli book before, it's discription is a little ambiguous and upon reading the first few pages I realized that the story was not what I thought it was going to be.

Hush is told in first person from Melkorka's point of view, which gives the novel the feeling of a story your being told, rather then a story your reading. As though an elderly Melkorka is sitting with you relating the story of her life directly to the reader. The year is 900A.D. At 15 Melkorka has never known anything but extreem comfort and security, She is a Princess and in no doubt that her future is bright. But a birthday trip to Dublin and a random act of violence against her younger brother changes everything.

Things seem to snowball from there, Melkorka and her eight year old sister Brigid are sent away for their own safety but their journy goes nightmareishly wrong. They are kidnapped by Russian slave traders, the Princess finds herself just another face in a mass of human cargo, her only power lies in her silence for she refuses to speak. The ships captain is fascinated and wary of Melkorka, and through him she gains some small amount of protection. Even so, hardship has hummbled the once hauty Princess she no longer feels herself above anyone. She bonds with her fellow captives, and uses her small amount of influence to help them. Then the worst happens. Brigid manages to escape while Melkorka is left on board.The ship eventually lands in the middle east and Melkorka watches powerless as those she has grown to love are sold away. Loss after loss and she can do nothing but endure. I wont say more, I dont want to spoil the end.

What you should know before buying this book. This is a short one at 308 pages, this causes the story to feel some what rushed. This is not a romance. if your expecting love on the high seas and a daring rescue followed by a happy and for all involved, you will be disapointed. The ending though not tragic is far from rosey. Hush is meant to be testament to the strength of the human spirit. Enjoyable is not a word I would use to discribe Napoli's work here. I think Powerful is more accurate.
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on November 29, 2007
When Zel was first published, I fell in love with Donna Jo Napoli's writing style. Her beautiful prose, intense adventures and heart-braking romance caught me up in stories that legends are made of. But Hush: An Irish Princess' Tale let me down.

Melkorka is an Irish Princess whose brother is mutilated by a Viking, causing her father to retaliate. Mel and her sister are sent to hide in the pre-Columbian Irish wild where they are kidnapped by slave traders and end up on a ship heading for Russia.

With all the promise of an epic adventure, this 320 page book falls short of that promise. The plot moves slowly and is quite disjointed, going from one bad situation to the next without any room to breathe. While the plot is lacking, I did still learn to love Mel and hope that things would work out for her in the end, yet the ending didn't leave me satisfied either.

With authors the caliber of Shannon Hale (Book of a Thousand Days), Jessica Day George (Princess of the Midnight Ball) and Tamora Pierce (Melting Stones), Napoli just doesn't stack up.
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on December 23, 2007
I love Donna Jo Napoli. My favorite book by her is actually Zel. I also enjoyed the Rumplestilskin Problem. Which is why I was so dissapointed in Hush. It was boring and I kept forcing myself to continue reading with hopes that it would get better. It didn't. Here is the synopsis of the story in a few paragraphs. I would reccomend you read it rather than the book. It'll save you a lot of time.


About 90% of the story takes place on a Viking slave ship which is boring. The protagonist and her sister and kidnapped and put on the ship. Because the protagonist decides that she isn't going to speak, the Viking captain decides she must be a bird in a girls body, so he allows her to do whatever she wants.

I found it very unrealistic, especially the times when she defies the captain in front of his crew. The captain is a man who cares a lot about appearences and he believes that slaves are scum, so it's very odd. Especially since he has no respect for women and viciously rapes one woman over and over and breaks bones of women and beats them.

Later, she leaves the boat and works as a slave. Then, a King decides he wants to buy her. For no apparent reason, he gives her beautiful clothes that he had intended for his wife. He has sex with her a lot and seems to fall in love with her. They arrive to his homeland. The protagonist discovers she is pregnant. She decides she may start speaking when her son is born and tell him about her native land.

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VINE VOICEon August 28, 2008
Hush is based off an Irish legend of a princess that was captured and made a slave and who through her silence won back much of her freedom.

Melkorka starts out as a beautiful, headstrong Irish princess that still has a lot of growing up to do. For her birthday she begs her father to take them to see the Viking town of Dublin. Her entire family pays bitterly when her brother loses a hand and her family goes to "war" over the dishonor. Melkorka and her little sister Bridgid are sent away somewhere safe only to become captured and made slaves. For the rest of the book Melkorka doesn't say a word. She takes the motto of her mother to heart, "Hush."

Bridgid eventually escapes the slave ship but we never know what has become of her. Melkorka travels through much of the world to see Russian cities, Arabic cities, Norse cities etc. Through it all she is silent which cloaks her in an air of mystery. Her captor is reluctant to give her up because she is so beautiful and because he thinks she is an enchantress of some kind. Mel is able to win some much needed food and clothing for her fellow captives through his fear and admiration of her. She does eventually get sold to a Norseman that impregnates her.

Boiled down like this it doesn't sound like a terribly good story but it actually is. Donna Jo Napoli has a way of taking the facts and weaving a life into and around them. By the end you feel much in tune with Mel and the choices she has made. It's an interesting story that does end reasonably well. It is a story that can teach girls and young women to be strong despite adverse conditions.
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on June 4, 2008
Hush is by Donna Jo Napoli, so it goes without saying that it is written in beautiful prose, and that it is filled with a wealth of well-researched detail that makes it seem real. But unlike most of Napoli's other novels, this story seems to have a beginning and middle but not end, so it leaves the reader hanging.
Princess Melkorka and her little sister are sent away from their father's kingdom for their safety at a time of crisis, just after their brother has lost his hand and just before their father plans to exterminate a shipload of Vikings by means a ruse. Alone and disguised as peasants, they are seized by slavers. Later the little sister escapes. Melkorka never finds out what happened to any of them - while this might be realistic it is hardly satisfying.
I decided not to recommend this book to my rather sheltered kids because of a moderately graphic rape scene. Reading this scene might be cathartic and healing to people who have experienced sexual assault, though the unwilling concubine's eventual bonding to her master sends a confusing message.
The protagonist's changing attitude to slavery adds depth to the story, though her loss of power and influence makes her unlikely to be able to do anything about it.
I had assumed that this novel was based on a fairy tale or legend like many of Napoli's best books (Beast, Spinners, Sirena) but it turns out that it is based on a snippet from an Icelandic saga. Perhaps that's why it doesn't seem to have an end. And the final Author's Note takes away some of the small amount of resolution that had appeared in the story by then.
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on November 25, 2007
Napoli's tale of an Irish Princess spirited away on a slave ship to Russia and back,headed to iceland where a life as concubine awaits her, is not like anything you've ever learned about Vikings, good or bad. The tale is told in stark first person, and under the narrative voice is a staggering amount of research that brings the era, its people, its voice, its victims to life. It's like magic. Melkorka is not just a whiny princess, she is a noble creature whose hush tells of her mettle and courage. The lingering memory of the book comes with the obliquity of the tale, its heroine, its details. I'd read this aloud to a high school class, or to young women who need to know that guts and courage don't require tattoos and gangs. It's a powerful story told by a masterful teller.
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on June 29, 2012
Present still isn't my favorite tense for books, but it does have an immediacy to it that makes me read more than if it were past. I feel like I'm watching a movie sometimes, if the writing is solid enough. Such was the case here. Overall I liked the story, though the ending felt abrupt. A lot of the griefs in the story outweighed most of anything uplifting, so I guess I expected more in the end, some loose ends wrapped up. But I guess since that doesn't always happen in real life, it wasn't fitting to happen here. The incorporation of historically mentioned characters is interesting. Also vikings!
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on November 11, 2012
This book starts out with a lot of promise: the premise is interesting, the travel element sets us up for a rich and varied setting, and the concept of endurance in the face of suffering is wonderful. The grammar is sound, some of the descriptive writing is nicely picturesque, and there are two points in the story that actually evoked some emotional response from me. However, the vast majority of this story fell flat in many ways. The first seven chapters or so are, in a word, dull. Lots of things happen, but we only find out about them after the fact or from some great emotionless distance. The main character/narrator starts out equally dull and even irritating, although I grant that at least that gives her room to grow and change. But the story itself wanders and slumps, with only tiny moments of interest and no real emotion. We read pages and pages about sitting around on a boat, walking, sitting around, getting stared at, sitting around, some other people are here and here are their names, the other people do some stuff but the main character doesn't seem to really care, some more may be realistic, but it is incredibly difficult to read. Characters show up for about two pages, get a name almost in retrospect ("I smiled at That New Guy Just Introduced, because I had always liked him even though I've never mentioned him before now at all"). We go through pages of meeting and losing people in the space of a few paragraphs without getting to know or care about any of them, and at the end of the story, absolutely nothing has been resolved for anyone. Worst of all is the ending, where the main character reacts to a sudden revelation in a way that does not jive with her mannerisms and attitude throughout the rest of the book. It's like the author reached the end of her ideas, realized that nothing had been resolved, and said, "Well, okay, how about this: she's suddenly almost sort of not completely miserable for no apparent reason. So it's like a happy ending or something." Also, since this book is billed for YA readers, I should probably mention that the two spots where I had any real emotional response were at pretty horrible, heavy atrocities that might be tough for younger readers (or anyone with abuse triggers) to swallow.

The author has potential, but this story was disappointing.
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on July 6, 2015
Look, I feel bad about this. I feel bad about reading this book, this book about a girl that went through so much and tried so hard to stay hopeful, and not considering it a great book. But the truth is, I wasn’t really wild about "Hush." It’s all right, I guess, but it’s not for me.

Here’s the lowdown: Princess Melkorka of Ireland only wanted to see Dublin for her birthday. Even though it’s Viking territory, and her family’s terrified of the Vikings, they agreed to take a short trip out there. But when Mel’s younger brother gets in a horrible accident and their father seeks revenge, Mel’s promised in marriage to a barbarian king before she knows what’s hit her. She and her younger sister, Brigid, are smuggled out of Ireland only to be captured by a slave ship. When Brigid manages to escape, Mel is on her own, with her defiant silence as her only weapon.

I won’t say I didn’t care about what happened in this book. You’d have to have a heart of stone not to care that a young girl is forced into slavery. But . . . the story just didn’t grab me. I never felt really strongly connected to Mel or her family, save sympathizing with her plight, and whenever I found a minor character I liked, something would happen to take them out of the story. Maybe it was because I often felt like I was on detail overload, especially later in the story. The Irish and Icelandic cultures are interesting, but they can’t take the place of good characters.

However, “Hush” was well written, as is all of Donna Jo Napoli’s work, and someone who managed to have a good connection with the characters would probably love it. I felt detached the whole time, though, and I was never able to get as close to anyone as Napoli wanted me to be.
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