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4.0 2
by Catherine Jinks

Exotic and exciting, this unflinching coming-of-age tale featuring a headstrong heroine weaves a vivid tapestry of life in the Middle Ages.

Early thirteenth-century Languedoc is a place of valor, violence, and persecution. At age sixteen, Babylonne has survived six bloody sieges. She's tough, resourceful, and — now that her strict aunt and abusive


Exotic and exciting, this unflinching coming-of-age tale featuring a headstrong heroine weaves a vivid tapestry of life in the Middle Ages.

Early thirteenth-century Languedoc is a place of valor, violence, and persecution. At age sixteen, Babylonne has survived six bloody sieges. She's tough, resourceful, and — now that her strict aunt and abusive grandmother intend to marry her off to a senile old man —desperate. Disguised as a boy, Babylonne embarks on an action-packed adventure that amounts to a choice: trust the mysterious Catholic priest — a sworn enemy to her Cathar faith — who says he's a friend of her dead father, Pagan. Or pursue a fairy-tale version of her future, one in which she'll fight and likely die in a vicious war with the French. Though Babylonne never knew her irreverent father, fans of Catherine Jinks's novels about Pagan Kidrouk will be sure to see the resemblance in his feisty daughter.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Jinks is a consummate and seamless storyteller. . . . The quality and pace of her writing is flawless." — SYDNEY MORNING HERALD — Sydney Morning Herald
KLIATT - Aimee Cole
Catherine Jinks has crafted a story set in medieval France about a feisty protagonist, Babylonne, the daughter of Pagan, featured hero in four previous books by Jinks. Her Cathar faith is considered a heresy by the Catholic Church. Facing the doom of an arranged marriage to an old and unthinkable husband, Babylonne disguises herself as a boy and sets out to find the kind people she's heard about for years in stories. She is aided by a Catholic priest, Father Isodore, who reveals that he knew her father and can help her travel safely. Accepting his help, but still not entirely trusting this man who doesn't share her faith, Babylonne sets out on a physical and emotional journey to find a better life. The novel allows a period of history in France to come alive with details that are entirely believable. Issues of faith and truth are presented seamlessly within the story for readers to question. Babylonne must choose to trust someone she's been taught to fear and with this comes the all-too-familiar challenge of overcoming prejudice. Reviewer: Aimee Cole
VOYA - Kristin Anderson
Jinks returns to the world of Pagan Kidrouk from Pagan's Crusade (Candlewick, 2003/VOYA December 2003) and its sequels with this novel. Babylonne never knew her father, Pagan, and her mother was killed for being a heretic when Babylonne was very young. Raised in the Cathar faith in Southern France by her aunt, Babylonne is abused both physically and emotionally. When her aunt decides to marry her to a very old man, Babylonne runs away from their home in Toulouse. She meets a Roman Catholic priest named Isidore who tells her that he knew her father. Although there is inherent distrust between Cathars and Roman Catholics, Isidore gradually convinces Babylonne that he has her best interest at heart. When Babylonne is taken from Isidore by a group of knights, she is forced to endure the siege of La Becede, always hoping that she will one day be reunited with Isidore. Using first-person narration, the author creates a voice very similar to that of Pagan, complete with snappy dialogue, humorous asides, and colorful descriptions - "He sounds like an ox drowning in a cesspit." Although having read the earlier titles about Pagan's life add context to the story, this novel stands on its own as a very fine historical fiction book about a period in history that is not commonly written about for teens. Its uniqueness might also make hand selling necessary, but once they dig into this story of a very strong-willed medieval teen, readers will be hooked. Reviewer: Kristin Anderson
School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up

Faced with an arranged marriage to a senile old man as punishment for her rebellious ways, orphaned 16-year-old Babylonne escapes the clutches of her maternal aunt and heads out on her own. Although she is now disguised as a boy, Father Isadore recognizes her and claims to have known her biological father. She has no choice but to trust the priest. The two begin a journey through the treacherous 13th-century French countryside that turns into a pilgrimage for Babylonne, who comes to know about her deceased parents, her quiet traveling companion, and herself. While readers do learn something about life during the Middle Ages (e.g., the feudal system, struggle between religious factions, lack of power for women), the novel's strength is in its characters. The pacing is slow, but the story serves to introduce and develop the protagonist and the priest in anticipation of future books. Much of the discussion about religion will be lost on teens, but they will find Babylonne's (sometimes vulgar) inner dialogue hilarious. Fans of Jinks's Pagan Kidrouk, featured in four earlier novels, will enjoy this story.-Wendy Scalfaro, G. Ray Bodley High School Library, Fulton, NY

Product Details

Candlewick Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
4.90(w) x 7.60(h) x 1.30(d)
570L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Oh, no.

I've killed the chicken.

How could I have killed it? How could this have happened? I wasn't trying to kill it—I was trying to shut it up, the stupid thing! What was I supposed to do? Let it squawk away until they found me?

It's all floppy now, like a bolster that's lost most of its stuffing. Did I squeeze it too hard? Did I smother it by putting my hand around its beak This is bad. I'm in so much trouble. If Gran ever finds out about this, I'll be eating wool grease and nutshells for a month

But she won't find out. She won't. I'm going to hold my breath and keep quite still, and with any luck . . . with any luck . . .

They're nowhere near this fowl house. I can hear their footsteps; they’re poking around behind the broad beans. Rustle, rustle. Mumbling to eachother in some strange language that must be Latin. I've heard people praying in Latin, and it's all um and us, like the stuff I'm hearing now. They say that monks speak Latin to each other, and these men are probably monks. Or priests. I wouldn't know. I didn't stand still long enough to get a good look at them.

Let your breath out slowly, Babylonne. That's it. Very slowly. Very quietly. There are feathers everywhere, stuck to my skirt and my sleeves and myhair. Please, God, don’t let me sneeze. Please, God, keep the feathers away from my nose.

Please, God, keep those priests away from this fowl house.

I'm very sorry that I killed the chicken. I honestly didn't mean to. I was only looking for eggs, because eggs aren't animals. I mean, you can't reallykill an egg, can you? Eating an egg isn't like eating a chicken. Not as far as I'm concerned. There might be a chicken inside the egg somewhere, but if this world is truly the Devil's realm—as Gran says—then you're doing that chicken a great service, aren't you? Making sure that it never hatches?

Wait a moment. Those footsteps—are they coming closer or moving away? I think . . . I think . . .

They're moving away.

Listen hard, Babylonne. Is that a door creaking? It is. I know it is. There's a door almost directly opposite the fowl house I'm sitting in. It must bethe door to the cloister. Those priests must have gone back into their cloister.

To fetch some more priests, do you think? Or have they decided that the chickens were making a fuss about nothing?

It's lucky that I'm so small. They probably weren't expecting someone my size. If they had been, they would have had a good look inside this fowl house instead of just glancing through the door. Whoever did that couldn't have seen much. He couldn't have seen me crushed into this corner. Oh, please, please don't be suspicious. Please don't come back.

ust go away and eat up your pork and your cheese and your honey, and forget about the eggs. Would you really miss a few eggs? You'd hardly have room for an egg in those great, swollen guts of yours—not after all the roasted peacocks and spiced pigeons and sugar cakes and whatever else it is that you pack into your paunches day after day, while the rest of us live on bones and millet.

Swinish, bloated, greasy idolaters that you are. It'd be a wonder if you saw me at all over the swell of your own enormous bellies.

I think they've gone. There isn't a sound. And I should make a move now, in case they do come back. Take it slowly, Babylonne. Carefully . . . quietly . . . don’t disturb the chickens. The other chickens. The ones who can still enjoy a nice dust bath before bedtime.

Not like poor old Floppy here.

The fowl-house door is only slightly bigger than my head. Beyond it, the sun blazes down onto rows and rows of peas and beans, leeks, marrows,strawberries, all laid out like a feast on a table. I tell you, these priests of Rome eat like kings. How dare they make a fuss over one poor egg?

Anyway, it's their own fault. If one of those evil priests hadn't dug himself a secret hole under the garden wall (probably in search of women, becauseall gluttons have hot blood), then I would never have come in here, would I? I would never have been tempted. They can thank their own unbridledlusts if they lose a few eggs. It's not stealing when you take from priests of Rome. Men who call themselves holy should be fasting, not feasting.

Hmmm. No one to the right. No one to the left. There's the door to the cloister, straight in front of me across the feathery vines, and it's standing open. That means the priests might be coming back.

I'd better run the other way. Off you go, Babylonne. One, two, three, go!I’d better head for the—


Oh, no.

"Thieving whore!" (Where did he—? How did he—? It’s as if he sprang out of the ground!) "Give me that chicken!"

You want this chicken?


"Yowch!" It hits him full in the face. But he's blocking my way; I can't reach the hole that I got in through.

The door behind me is my only chance.

"Get her! Stop her!"

"Come here, you whore!"

Fat, fat, fat. They lumber like cows. I'm trampling all the green shoots, but I can’t help it—I have to reach the door—hurry, hurry!

Through the door! Whirl around! Pull it shut, and there's a latch! A latch! It's as good as a lock! The door shudders beneath the weight of a hurtlingpriest. But it's sturdy. It's oak. It won't give way.

"Open this door!" Pounding fists. "Open this door!"

Meet the Author

Catherine Jinks is a medieval scholar and the author of many novels for young adults, including four books featuring Pagan, Babylonne's father, in a Crusades-era series that KIRKUS REVIEWS called "a high-water mark in historical fiction." She lives in Australia.

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4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
BABYLONNE, by Catherine Jinks, is the story of a sixteen-year-old girl in early thirteenth-century Languedoc.

It is a time of war, persecution, and religious controversy. Jinks' knowledge of the era as a scholar lends a truth and vividness to the coming-of-age tale of a young, feisty girl in the middle of a war. She is able to paint everything from the sights, sounds, and smells of monasteries to the sights, sounds, and smells of wars and infirmaries inside besieged fortresses. Her writing is not for the weak of heart, or the weak of stomach in some places.

Babylonne is a young woman who has spent her life surrounded by bloodshed and abuse and has remained an independent thinker despite it all. She never knew her mother, a Good Christian, and never knew her father, an Arab-born Roman priest. She lives with her aunt and other women in a convent of sorts. As she is considered to be a child with no father, because her father was a Roman priest, she is mistreated and abused in many ways.

Finally, when she is going to be married off to a man who is so old that he sees everything as giant bouncing olives, she makes a run for it.

While Babylonne runs through her city, stolen goods in tow, she runs into a Roman priest, Isidore, whom she despises at first. Gradually, Isidore teaches her to trust and the differences between her faith and his faith come into question and are open for debate. Her original wish, to fight for the exiled lords against the French, comes into question as she learns what war really means. Babylonne's honest voice is dramatic, humorous, and sometimes heartbreaking.

The one thing that I truly wish was different with this book is the cover art. Babylonne is supposed to be as dark as a Moor but the cover shows her as pale, brown-eyed, and red-haired. While the cover is dramatic and beautiful, I wish that it showed the main character as she is written, because everything else is so carefully researched and laid out.

Overall, Jinks' writing style is easy to get into and the historical knowledge makes Babylonne's world leap off the page.