Dungeon by Banks, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble


4.0 7
by Lynne Reid Banks

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In the aftermath of the murderous savagery between two rival Scottish lairds, Bruce MacLennan commands the building of a castle with a dungeon below. During its construction, he travels to the faraway and then almost unknown land of China, where he joins a troop of mercenary soldiers — all to distract him from his memories.

In a poor teahouse, he encounters


In the aftermath of the murderous savagery between two rival Scottish lairds, Bruce MacLennan commands the building of a castle with a dungeon below. During its construction, he travels to the faraway and then almost unknown land of China, where he joins a troop of mercenary soldiers — all to distract him from his memories.

In a poor teahouse, he encounters the child Peony, and, on impulse, buys her to be his attendant. Despite his harshness toward her, she serves him faithfully. After many adventures, they return to Scotland, where MacLennan's castle — and his planned revenge — await him.

Within these dark walls, Peony finds a new life and unexpected happiness. For MacLennan the time has come to fill the dungeon with its destined prisoner. But he does not dream of the terrible twist of fate — one that will not lock away his old enemy — but the most precious person in his life.

Celebrated author Lynne Reid Banks takes us back to the fourteenth century in this compelling epic of one lord's bitter struggle, his quest for vengeance, and the tragic awakening of his frozen heart.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Tinged with Buddhist notions of karma and reincarnation, Banks's (The Indian in the Cupboard) riveting tale of reprisal and redemption centers on a Chinese slave girl and her fierce, embittered master, the Scottish laird Bruce MacLennan. After a feud with a neighboring warlord results in the bloody deaths of his cherished wife and children, MacLennan sets in motion his plans for a huge fortress, complete with dungeon, and then decamps to the fabled land of China in search of adventure. Working as a hired fighter, MacLennan encounters young Mudan (Peony) and, on impulse, buys her as his tea slave. The child's presence begins to reawaken feelings of tenderness in MacLennan, which he does his best to squelch. In another, more conventional novel, this softening might be the start of the warrior's re-entry into the world of the loving; here, it is simply the beginning of a heart-wrenching struggle between compassion and vengeance. For her part, Peony takes scraps of happiness where she can, gleaning wisdom and courage from the teachings of the Buddhist soldier with whom MacLennan travels; some years later, when she accompanies MacLennan back to Scotland, she finds something like familial love in her friendship with a kind stable boy. As the novel moves toward its conclusion, it conveys a powerful message about the terrible price of unswerving revenge. A poignant epilogue offers a spark of hope, especially welcome after all the sorrow that precedes it. Ages 12-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-9-Set in feudal Scotland, this book focuses on an adult character and his unremitting desire for justice while two children weave in and out of the story. It begins with Laird Bruce MacLennan standing at the edge of a deep, square pit that will be used to incarcerate his nemesis, Archibald MacInnes, who captured and killed MacLennan's wife and children. While construction of the dungeon and the castle that will stand around it proceeds, the obsessed MacLennan travels to China and, while there, buys a child named Peony as his servant. Back in Scotland, she is befriended by a kind stable boy, Fin. MacLennan is foiled in his attempt to mete out vengeance and places full blame on the girl's shoulders. In a rage, he throws her into the dungeon with no food or water. She slips away only to be discovered too late by the cruel laird but Fin cunningly locks him in his own oubliette and throws away the key. Though brutal and graphic at times, this dark novel of blind retribution is resolved through the touch of a child. Banks plays out the plot perfectly and keeps reader interest high throughout. Her deft use of archaic, Scottish terms adds to the overall flavor, as well. Peony's abduction is described, "She's been taken frae her mither too young." This book, though compelling for a smaller audience, is an interesting departure for Banks.-Daniel L. Darigan, West Chester University, PA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Fourteenth-century Scottish laird Bruce MacLennan commissions a castle complete with dungeon, then embarks on a trip following the path of Marco Polo. MacLennan has suffered a tragedy at the hands of an enemy, revealed in full only near the story's end, and he hopes to blunt his pain through travel. A fierce fighter, he quickly becomes part of a private army when he reaches China, where he also buys Peony, a young Chinese girl, to be his slave. The omniscient narrator then observes the child's thoughts and emotions as she serves her seemingly cold-hearted master, encounters new lands and, on their return to Scotland, becomes friends with a stable boy. During their trip back, Banks (Harry the Poisonous Centipede's Big Adventure, 2001, etc.) hints heavily that Peony might be softening MacLennan's heart, and refers all too often to the tragic demise of his family. Intent on getting revenge, MacLennan throws himself and his people into an ill-considered attack on his enemy, then vents his rage at losing on Peony. The story moves along at a good clip with the excitement of travel and battle, combined with strong descriptive writing about China and Scotland. But MacLennan is so self-absorbed and has so little regard for Peony as a person that, even with the full revelation of his tragedy, readers will have a hard time finding him sympathetic. Peony, though far more agreeable, seems distant and, especially at the conclusion, romanticized. Nevertheless, those who don't object to some melodrama, may enjoy the journey and the ample historical detail. (Fiction. 12+)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.12(h) x 1.05(d)
Age Range:
13 - 16 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Bruce MacLennan, Scottish laird and master of all that lay in his sight, stood on the edge of a deep, wide, square pit. It was dug into the top of a crag that stood next to a river. The men who had dug it were standing around it, filthy, tired, and covered with sweat. There were over a hundred of them, all tenants of the laird's, and it had taken them two months to level the hilltop and dig the pit in one corner. All the work had been done with picks and shovels, and the spoil carried away in big baskets and cast down the hill. From a distance it looked as if the hill had been decapitated, with the pale blood of the inner ground flowing down its sides.

Bruce MacLennan stared down into the newly excavated depths. At the moment there was just a hole in the ground. But he could already see a dungeon.

He could imagine it lined with big blocks of stone. He could imagine iron rings in the walls, to which prisoners could be chained. He could imagine the huge wooden door with iron panels and hinges and lock, and a heavy brass key. He could even foreshadow a man, languishing down there in the raw depths, his prisoner -- helpless, wretched, defeated -- chained to the wall, not just a symbol of conquest but a real man, one he hated with his whole heart. Or what was left of it, for this villain had destroyed all that was precious and love-filled in the life of MacLennan, leaving him a hollow man burning for vengeance, but not headstrong enough to go after it until he was ready.

At the laird's side stood Master Douglas of Berwick. This man had led the building of fortresses and castles in several parts of Scotland, England, and Wales. OnlyBruce MacLennan's considerable wealth had gained him the services of this masterbuilder, who stood now at a rough table that had been set up for him. He was poring over a number of large pieces of slate, on which were scratched drawings that he and MacLennan had made together. He alone knew MacLennan's intentions and the extent of his ambition for this project, just begun.

"Foreman!" MacLennan shouted. "Where the devil are ye? Och, there y'are! Now then." He chose one of the slate plans and put it into the work-stained hands of his main man. "Here's how the dungeon is to look when it's finished, do ye ken?"

The foreman took the drawing and stared at it. It was a good drawing. He could feel he was looking down into the finished chamber, as if he were a bird flying above it. Or, since of course it would have a ceiling, like a spider crawling over it. A faint shudder passed across his shoulders. It would be a fearful place to be locked into.

"Aye, sir."

"And here" -- MacLennan produced more slates -- "are the plans for the castle."

The first plan showed a bird's-eye view of an imposing square structure with a courtyard, or ward, in the center. In this was a well -- a vital adjunct should the castle ever come under siege. At the corners of the ward were four round, crenelated towers (the dungeon would be underneath one of them), linked by walls with battlements, a main gate with two massive U-shaped gatehouses, a small postern gate that led down to the river, and a deep-dug moat in front, to be crossed by a ramp and drawbridge.

The next plan showed a side elevation, with very narrow windows, like slits, so arrows could fly out but couldn't so easily fly in. A third, fourth, and fifth gave a lot of detail, showing many rooms -- a great hall, stables, storerooms, and servants' quarters -- all to be built against the inside of the thick walls. The foreman stared at these in admiration. It would be an exciting and difficult project, even for an experienced engineer like himself.

It would need many workers -- hundreds, possibly over a thousand. Digging was just the start of it! They would need quarriers to bring the stone for the building. Stonemasons to build the mighty walls, many feet thick, with skins of mortared stones packed with rubble between. Blacksmiths to make and mend iron tools, plumbers to create cisterns and latrines, and carpenters to make scaffolding and later the floors, for the castle would have two storeys. In addition there would have to be hundreds of unskilled laborers.

"Any questions?" barked his master.

"Aye, m'laird. How are the needful workers to be found? Where are they to live?"

MacLennan picked up another plan from the pile of slates on the table.

"Ye see where my house is, down there below?" He pointed to a large timber-framed manor house at the foot of the crag. "It won't stand alone for long! Men will come when they are offered good wages, cheap homes and farmland, and my protection against danger. While the first leveling and digging is going on, ye're to send men as far afield as Edinburgh to recruit. Word will spread! By the time I get back from my travels, I'll lay there'll be a small town where my house is, and farms and hamlets besides, all over my land."

"Ye plan a journey, m'laird?"

"Aye. A long, long journey," replied MacLennan dryly. He glanced at the masterbuilder at his side. "And that'll please you, Master Douglas, I dunna doubt! Ye'll have a free hand, without me here to nag and interfere with ye. As for you, foreman," he added, "dunna think because the cat's away, the mice can play. I've engaged some overseers to make sure no one slacks."

The foreman bit back a retort. It irked him sometimes that this man, as low born as himself, and lower, should have such power over him. Especially now, since he was so sorely changed ...

The Dungeon. Copyright © by Lynne Banks. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Lynne Reid Banks is a bestselling author for both children and adults. She grew up in London and became first an actress and then one of the first woman TV reporters in Britain before turning to writing. She now has more than forty books to her credit. Her classic children's novel, The Indian in the Cupboard, has sold more than ten million copies worldwide and was made into a popular feature film. Lynne lives with her husband in Dorset, England.

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