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The Kingdom of Little Wounds Hardcover – October 8, 2013

3.4 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 11 Up—Cokal here paints an unflinchingly grim portrait of 16th-century palace life as experienced by both servants and royalty. Something is rotten in the fictional Scandinavian city of Skyggehavn as doomed Princess Sophia prepares to wed a man nearly twice her senior. During the celebration, royal seamstress Ava Maria Bingen accidently pricks Queen Isabel during an emergency gown repair, but instead of facing the requisite dismissal (or worse, death), Ava is recruited by narcissistic Lord Nicolas. Stationed in the royal nursery as a spy, Ava's destiny becomes entwined with that of mute nursemaid, Midi Sorte. Betrayal, murder, and political intrigue abound as these women struggle to survive in an environment that uses and abuses them in horrific ways. Cokal's prose is lyrical and beautiful. Characters—even minor ones—are exquisitely rendered, each with complex and often heartbreaking backstories. Reader Susan Duerden is exceptionally versatile. The story and its inhabitants spring to vivid life through her expert touch. However, some caution: frequent and explicit accounts of sexual acts, abuse, disease, and death make this one inappropriate for all but the most mature listeners. It is a superb audiobook, but consider the limited teen appeal before purchasing.—Alissa Bach, Oxford Public Library, MI --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

From Booklist

Skyggehavn, a fictional sixteenth-century kingdom, is a desperate place plagued by ­madness, disease, and mercury poisoning. Political intrigue, murder, and manipulation abound as Cokal wends the troubling tale of Ava, an aspiring royal seamstress, and Midi, a mute foreign nursemaid, who together orchestrate a daring gambit to ensure both the continued power of the reigning queen and the downfall of the cruel man who sadistically took advantage of them both. The author seamlessly interweaves crooked fairy tales throughout her dark story, which only serves to underscore the grim realities of the women who suffer terrible violence at the hands of brutal men. The graphic depictions of sex and rape make this a difficult read—and reserve it for the most mature readers—though Cokal gives a powerful and poignant voice to both Ava and Midi, whose indignation simmers until they enact a gruesome form of revenge. Despite the challenging content, the book’s lyrical writing, enthralling characters, and compelling plot will give older readers lots to ponder. Grades 10-12. --Sarah Hunter
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick; First Edition edition (October 8, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0763666947
  • ISBN-13: 978-0763666941
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #671,307 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This should never, ever have been brought out under a YA label. What was the editor thinking?! Even a Q & A with the author on the publisher's site indicates that she did not write this book for a younger audience. The publisher actually lists this book as suitable for ages 14 and up, which is really not right. It has a dense, complicated plot and the violence is so brutal, frequent, and graphic (think sadistic rapes, and other physical brutality, in graphic detail), that it is not a book for children. If it were a movie, it would be rated R, not PG-13. It is a dark, well-written, and interesting book for adults--that older teens (mature, older teens, not 14-year-olds) could read if they knew what they were getting into. Even as an adult, I found the graphic violence unsettling, and while the book was well done, it's not really an "enjoyable" read (and I tend to like weird books that are somewhat dark, but this is seriously, unrelentingly dark). My teenaged daughter is interested in historical fiction and likes novels about disease, so we thought this would be a good read, but she was too disturbed to continue. She didn't mind the syphilis aspect, but the brutality against women was too much for her. I thought the book was a sobering look at what women's lives in the 16th century probably were like--nothing romanticized or glossed over. Readers should know that this is not a light, historical fantasy about a seamstress, a nursemaid, and a queen. (As an adult book, I'd give it four stars.)
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Format: Hardcover
I got a copy of this book to review through Netgalley(dot)com. I loved the beautiful cover and found the synopsis to be intriguing. I really disliked the first half of the book, but the second half was much more interesting and engaging.

The author self-describes this book as a fairy tale about syphilis (which I wish I would have known before I decided to read it) and that is pretty much what it is. The story is set in the 1500's and mainly follows two girls in their late teens, both are servants in the castle. Ava Bingen is a seamstress who accidentally pokes the queen with a needle during a gown repair and as such finds herself in the role of either facing death or agreeing to spy for the King's Secretary. The mute Midi Sorte is a nursemaid for the ailing children of the Queen and King. Both women struggle to survive in a dark atmosphere and find themselves closer to goings on of royalty than they ever wanted to be.

I think this is dubbed as YA but it should definitely be adult. There is a ton of deviant/violent sexual behavior including rape and self-mutilation. The two main young girls are repeatedly raped and abused. Although they are in their late teens, all the surrounding characters in the book are adults...so this is a very adult read. For example in the first 10% of the book we meet a man who has sewn jewels into his penis so he can keep his wealth with him and he enjoys the side effect of how much pain this gives the women he rapes.

The descriptions of things are gross and disturbing. I am talking about descriptions of the king's bowel movements, details about the queen's gynecological exams, and wonderfully (I am being sarcastic here) detailed descriptions about lesions, boils, and general disease.
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Format: Kindle Edition
In the spirit of SNL's Stefon-- this book has it all: plague ridden princesses, embroidery, random sludge filled holes in the ground, roast dolphin, strange stars/comets in the sky.

Overall, one of my favorite reads for fall, The Kingdom of Little Wounds is a beautiful dark fairy tale. Comprised of little vignette style chapters focusing on various characters (the aging queen, the wronged seamstress, the devious count), that are almost stand alone little short stories in their own right. Cokal's prose weaves an amazing tableau for the reader; I found it easy to envision this kingdom on the verge of downfall as I devoured the pages.

Definitely not a fairy tale for children (some violence and disturbing scenes)-- think along the lines of Gregory Maguire's Wicked trilogy, I appreciated Cokal writing something that straddled the line between outright fantasy/sci-fi and historical fiction. As I want to avoid giving away too much of the plot, but needless to say this one was difficult to put down. Don't expect heroines who need saving, or any other predictable scenarios!

Make sure to check out my other reviews at [...]
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Oh my goodness, you guys, this book. This book! I originally checked out The Kingdom of Little Wounds by Susann Cokal from the library because it has a gorgeous color and the pages of this book are beautiful. They’re dyed red and so pretty. Then in my brilliance of “ebook only” phase purchased it for $10 or so. Then it sat around for a few weeks while review opportunities took precedence. One day Ruby asked if it was gothic so I went to GoodReads to see if it was or not and I was unfortunate enough to see in a review that Cokal self-proclaims her book to be “a fairy tale about syphilis”. I can’t even tell you how my stomach plummeted. Because really is syphilis something deserving of a fairy tale?

And then I started reading The Kingdom of Little Wounds and I was so pissed that I had wasted $10 on this book. The first 25% of the book is horrific. I wouldn’t be comfortable handing this book off to a friend’s daughter who is a senior in high school. There is sex, rape, slavery, jeweled penises, strong subject matter and language. As a 29 year old woman it was still hard to read but damn it! I spent $10 and I was sort of disgustingly interested in where the story would go.

I can’t tell you how grateful I am that I stuck with this book! If I had to classify this book I’d call it adult historical fiction. My biggest issue with The Kingdom of Little Wounds was going into it expecting young adult and getting a whole bunch of adult thrown in my face. Once I reconciled that fact I was able to really enjoy the story. There is palace intrigue, servant rivalry, insanity, court politics, life and death, and almost anything you can imagine in between.

I would recommend this book for adult readers who enjoy historical fiction but can stomach the atrocities that occurred in history.

First reviewed at Once Upon a Chapter
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