City of Cannibals by Ricki Thompson, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
City of Cannibals

City of Cannibals

3.6 3
by Ricki Thompson

It's 1536, and Dell lives on an isolated hillside with her bitter auntie and drunken father. Father has warned Dell never to venture past her mother's grave to the City of Cannibals. But unanswered questions plague Dell. Why did her parents leave the court of Henry VIII? Was her mother's death really an accident? And what about the mysterious Brown Boy who leaves


It's 1536, and Dell lives on an isolated hillside with her bitter auntie and drunken father. Father has warned Dell never to venture past her mother's grave to the City of Cannibals. But unanswered questions plague Dell. Why did her parents leave the court of Henry VIII? Was her mother's death really an accident? And what about the mysterious Brown Boy who leaves sacks of supplies for her family?

Dell risks traveling to the City of Cannibals. Once inside London, she is not eaten alive but is confronted with a different horror—the Oath of Allegiance. If she and the Brown Boy don't sign, they could be executed. Dell has good reason not to sign. But who can defy King Henry VIII and live?

A cloud of smoke filled the air in front of her and stung her eyes. Dripping fat sizzled, and through the greasy smoke, Dell could see something burning on a spit. It was a human leg--it was the leg of the woman who sat outside the gate. She looked closer. No. Not a human leg. A leg of mutton. Just mutton.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Annie Laura Smith
This story is set in England in 1536 under the rule of King Henry VIII, who demands an Oath of Allegiance from his subjects. The Reformation and the King's break with the Catholic Church are seen through the eyes of a sixteen-year-old peasant girl. Odelia (Dell) leaves her cave on the mountain because of her drunken father. She flees to the City of London that her father has named the city of cannibals. She searches in the city for the boy Ronaldo, with whom she has fallen in love. He is a novice monk who provides her family monthly supplies by delivering them to her mother's grave. Although she does not find the cannibals her father warned her about, the City of London is crude, vulgar, filthy, and very dangerous. If Dell and Ronaldo do not sign the King's Oath, each will face a traitor's death. It is a well crafted story that takes the reader back to the 16th century with the appropriate language and historical context of that era. This is a coming-of-age story set in these very difficult times and shown through Dell's dedication, persistence, and emerging sexual desires. It is a challenging read that involves history, mystery, and romance. Reviewer: Annie Laura Smith
VOYA - Rebecca Moore
Sixteen-year-old Dell and her family live in a cave, where Dell secretly makes puppets the way her long-dead mother—a former lady-in-waiting—did. When Dell's father grows abusive, Dell flees for the city where her mother died, even though her father claims it is full of cannibals. On her first reeking, bustling day there, Dell witnesses a bishop's execution, and learns that King Henry VIII has declared himself head of the church. Those who stay true to the Pope are in mortal danger, and Dell finds herself in the thick of the conflict as she gets involved with a Papist joiner, ponders her mother's possible murder, and falls in love with an apprentice monk. As her situation grows more perilous, Dell learns there are many kinds of cannibalism. Evoking the Tudors' raw earthiness, Thompson writes with gusto about bodily excretions, fetid stenches, and common crudity (a female acquaintance grabs Dell's breast and her 'pissing place' in mockery). Evoking a more subtle awareness of the era, Thompson filters Dell's world through her naivete and ignorance, and the painful, fearful constriction of her religious faith as she loses that ignorance. The plot is confusing. It is never quite clear why Dell is in so much danger, and the convenience of her encounters with key people defies belief. In addition, the title, in these days of zombies and vampires, is misleading. Still, for readers who like thoughtful historical fiction in feculent, unsanitized detail, this will be just the ticket. Reviewer: Rebecca Moore
VOYA - Kevin Birrell
This novel had the potential to be great—the plot definitely could work—but unfortunately it got dragged down by clunky, overly-concise and repetitive writing. The sometimes incongruously graphic descriptions of city life and Dell's over-the-top thoughts also detracted from the story's potential beauty. Lastly, many historical references are glossed over , and as such, they may feel jarring and awkward to avid historical YA literature readers. Reviewer: Kevin Birrell, Teen Reviewer
Barbara A. Ward
Sixteenth-century Tudor England could be a confusing place for anyone. But for sheltered Dell, 16, on the run from her abusive father and their cave home outside London, it is especially daunting. Wary of the city whose inhabitants supposedly eat each other alive, Dell encounters kindly folks, develops her own puppetry skills, and learns about her mother's time in the city. Her fellow Londoners' loyalties are torn between the Pope and King Henry VIII, who, desperate for a male heir, tosses wife after wife aside, causing a rift between church and state. As novice Ronaldo awakens Dell's own sexual desire, she realizes that while the city's citizens may not literally be cannibals, many are misled by their passions and a king intent on perverting the law. The pitch-perfect period slang and descriptions of bawdy citizens, carelessly spilled chamber pots, poverty, disease, and despair portray a city awash in vulgarity. Reviewer: Barbara A. Ward
School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up—The backdrop is the spring of 1536 during Henry VIII's break with the Roman Catholic Church. Dell, 16, is the daughter of a former court puppeteer and lives in isolation in the countryside with him, her aunt, and her younger brother. Cruelly treated by her father, Dell leaves home in search of "the Brown Boy," as she has dubbed the novice monk who regularly brings supplies to the family. While in London, she learns the truth about her mother's death, discovers her own skills as a puppeteer, and finds and falls in love with the Brown Boy, Ronaldo. Dell is a sympathetic protagonist and readers will root for her throughout the novel and appreciate the hopeful (though ambivalent) ending. Thompson is to be commended for not shirking from the crudeness, vulgarity, and filth of early-16th-century London. However, as the setting and time period are initially unclear, readers may put the book aside in confusion without making it to the second chapter, in which Thompson offers a glimmering of the novel's background. Overall, though, this is a promising debut that historical fiction fans will enjoy if they know in advance where and when the story takes place.—Leah J. Sparks, formerly at Bowie Public Library, MD
Publishers Weekly
Sixteenth-century London, with its squalor, stench, and bustle, is the real star of Thompson's first book, set against the backdrop of Henry VIII's break with the Catholic Church. Sixteen-year-old Dell has been taught by her drunken, abusive father that the city is truly overrun with cannibals. When he butchers her pet rabbit, Dell runs away and braves the city, seeking the mysterious Brown Boy, who has periodically left supplies for her isolated family. Though she finds no actual cannibals, London teems with dangers Dell does not understand, as the king's soldiers loot the churches and priests are executed in the public square. The Brown Boy, when she finds him, only draws her deeper into the incomprehensibility of city life. Thompson doesn't always believably balance Dell's many positive attributes—beauty, literacy, artistry—against the gross impoverishment, isolation, and brutality of her upbringing, which results in a somewhat overdrawn conflict between her innocence and the corruption of her world. Rare moments of kindness are like gasps of clean air before readers are plunged back into the fray. Ages 13–17. (Feb.)

Product Details

Highlights Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(d)
HL660L (what's this?)
Age Range:
13 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Ricki Thompson lives with her family in Minneapolis. She has an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College. This is her first novel.

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