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The Plague

The Plague

3.0 9
by Joanne Dahme

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In a land overshadowed by death, fifteen year-old Nell's uncanny resemblance to Princess Joan brings her to act as her double—what young girl wouldn't want to leave a life of poverty and pretend to be a princess? But when the plague catches up to the royal entourage, thwarting the King's plan for the princess to marry the Prince of Castile and


In a land overshadowed by death, fifteen year-old Nell's uncanny resemblance to Princess Joan brings her to act as her double—what young girl wouldn't want to leave a life of poverty and pretend to be a princess? But when the plague catches up to the royal entourage, thwarting the King's plan for the princess to marry the Prince of Castile and seal an alliance between their kingdoms, Nell's life could change forever. Princess Joan's brother The Black Prince schemes to make the wedding go on declaring Nell will no longer double for Joan, she will become the princess and dupe Prince Pedro into marriage! With the aid and protection of a quirky band of friends—a Spanish minstrel, a monk, a gravedigger, a band of merchants—Nell must evade not only the Black Prince, a practitioner of the dark arts, but the plague as well, as she fights to return to the King and country. Based on historical truth, Dahme beautifully captures the dark terror of a Plague-infested fourteenth century Europe, while bringing to life the daily existence of medieval life for young adult readers.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

The Compulsive Reader
"The Plague is a unique and engrossing read with admirable characters and possess a good, even pace that will even entice the reluctant reader. This is one to stick on the wish list."

Publishers Weekly web exclusive review, October 21, 2009
“This dark piece of historical fiction…is gritty and realistic…A harrowing and grim historical fantasy.”

Sophie Pollitt-Cohen
Dahme's story is engaging and absorbing. It offers romance and sword fights, as well as a forgotten world without mass publications or photography, where most people wouldn't know what the real princess looked like. Dahme's strengths are in the moods she creates. Everything feels dark, wet and scary. She conveys the panic of being chased by terrible things—Black Prince and black plague—one is helpless to stop.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
This dark piece of historical fiction, set during the Black Death, is gritty and realistic in its portrayal of the pandemic, even as Dahme (Creepers) introduces supernatural elements to the story. Orphaned Nell, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Princess Joan, daughter of England's King Edward III, is enlisted by the king to be his daughter's body-double. When the princess dies from the plague that is ravaging Europe, Nell is unwillingly made party to a plot-masterminded by Joan's brother, the Black Prince-to marry the Spanish Prince Pedro in place of the late princess. With the help of some accomplices, Nell and her younger brother, George, flee, finding the deceased and dying at every turn. Throughout, Dahme makes the plague's emotional toll evident ("we watched cart after cart empty their contents into the pits. I couldn't call them people, the things in the carts, or I would have to cry out in despair.... There was nothing to define these forms as men, women, or child"). A harrowing and grim historical fantasy. Ages 14-up.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal
Gr 6–10—On the day Nell's parents are taken away by the gravediggers, her destiny changes because she bears an uncanny resemblance to Princess Joan, daughter of King Edward III. Worried that his military campaigns, as well as the burgeoning plague, could put his daughter in danger, the king decides that 15-year-old Nell should serve as his daughter's body double. As Nell and her brother George are traveling to Spain with the princess for her marriage, Joan's brother, known as the Black Prince, carries out a treasonous plan that leaves the princess dead in France and Nell forced to take her place in a phony marriage to the Prince of Castile. Realizing his treachery, Nell, George, and Henry, a soldier, try to escape the Black Prince. As they try to make their way through Bordeaux, they are joined by one cast of characters after another, and eventually find themselves in the clutches of the Black Prince once again. The three are taken back to England to be tried for treason, and they pray that King Edward will believe their story. The author's writing style is appealing, but the novel is largely plot driven and episodic with little character development. Additionally, the suggestion that the Black Prince has supernatural control over the plague-infested rats introduces a jarring element of fantasy in what is otherwise strictly historical fiction. The open-ended resolution leaves room for further adventures of Nell, George, and Henry, but readers will want stronger characters with whom they can develop a connection.—Cheri Dobbs, Detroit Country Day Middle School, Beverly Hills, MI
Kirkus Reviews
An orphan becomes an innocent pawn in a dangerous political plot that carries her from London to Bordeaux while the Black Death cuts a swath through 14th-century Europe. Fifteen-year-old Nell escapes a life of poverty when her amazing likeness to Princess Joan earns her the job of stand-in for the princess. En route to her marriage to Prince Pedro of Castile, the princess succumbs to the plague. Her wily brother Edward, the Black Prince, devises a cunning plan to have Nell masquerade as the princess so the marriage can still take place. Nell, her brother George and a young soldier escape into countryside ravaged by plague, where they are relentlessly pursued by the Black Prince and his army of charmed rats. From start to finish, Nell's lively first-person narrative conveys a palpable atmosphere of deception and terror, propelling readers from one hair-raising event to the next. Despite the contrived ending that finds Nell a prisoner in the Tower of London, Dahme successfully blurs fact and fiction to capture the pervasive horror that infected life during the plague. (Historical fantasy. 12-15)

Product Details

Running Press Book Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
8.54(w) x 5.82(h) x 0.96(d)
Age Range:
12 - 18 Years

Meet the Author

Joanne Dahme works for the Philadelphia Water Department as its Watersheds Programs Manager. She received her civil engineering degree from Villanova University in 1980, and went on to earn a Masters of Journalism and Master's in Creative Writing from Temple University. Creepers, her first venture into the realm of young adult fiction, met with widespread acclaim from the literary world. Joanne lives with her husband and son in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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Plague 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyment: ?? Plot: ?? Characters: ? Setting: ? Overall: ? Fifteen-year-old Nell's uncanny resemblance, to King Edward the Third's daughter Princess Joan, brings the orphan and her brother George from the murky streets of fourteenth century London to a grand calling--a means of protection for the Royal Family by acting as a body double in times of danger. But as the plague that claimed the lives of Nell's parents continues to ravish England and France, and eventually takes Princess Joan herself, Nell is forced by Joan's brother, the Black Prince, to take on the princess's identity for read. Nell must carry out a plan to expand the empire by marrying the Prince of Castile. Knowing she could never permanently play the role of the Princess Nell is determined to return to England and report the truth of the Princess's death to the King. With the help of a number of surprising characters--including a Spanish minstrel, a monk, a gravedigger, a band of merchants--and most devotedly by her brother and the young soldier Henry, Nell must escape not only the Black Prince and his army of rats, but the plague as well . . . ~*~*~*~*~*~ A favorite line of fifteen-year-old Nell is that Joan and her family were chosen by God to become royalty. That right there should tell you how much I liked this book. A big fat none at all. I have to admit that I am not religious. At all. I don't contemplate where I will go once I die or whether there really is a heaven or hell. I am not particularly morbid like that and I don't think that just because I believe that someone died for my sins will put me in a good place. I realize that many people do believe that but I try not to judge because I like to believe that every car on the road is out to kill me whether the car is being driven or not. But that is for another conversation. Right now I am talking about The Plague. It was boring. Also does anyone else notice how Joanne Dahme almost always has a character with a name very close to her own. At least in the few books that I have read that has been true. This book was boring. I felt that Nell was not really in the spotlight so much as the rats. I just felt like there was an over emphasis on the rats because of the fact that none of the people in that time knew that the black plague was being spread by the rats that had been bitten by the fleas that carried the disease. I especially disliked how they made Edward out to have a rat army. I felt that it was a bit too wierd for a historical book where you hope for historical events more than the paranomal kind. I have read another book set during this time called The Queen's Daughter by Susan Coventry that is told in Joan's POV. If you really like books set in this time I would recommend that you check them out.
Sensitivemuse More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was going to be all historical and for the most part, it is. However then there's this fantastical element that's been added in and I can't quite understand why as there really was no need for it. Actually I think it made the book worse. I especially disliked how Edward was seen as a 'sorcerer' with his army of black rats descending terror upon Nell and her friends. What in the world was that about??!!! I really did not like that at all. Although the plot was interesting, the pace was really slow and it felt as if I would never get around to finishing the book. The characters, were well done though, if only there wasn't a magic theme to it, it would have been ten times better. If the story was just purely historical fiction I think it would have been a decent novel. Even with the magic though, it wasn't properly explained and you are left rather perplexed at the entire novel. The description of the plague wasn't really the main focus but it seemed as if it was just rushed through to get to Nell's journey back home. In other words, the theme of the plague just seemed secondary to everything else. The ending was all right. Decently written but by the end of novel I was glad I was done. Overall, I'd definitely pass on this one. It could have been so much better but instead it falls short. Fans of historical fiction may not like the way the Black Prince is portrayed (such as me). I might recommend this book to those that aren't too heavy on the historical fiction and wouldn't mind a bit of fantasy as well.
Mother-Daughter-Book-Club More than 1 year ago
In the 1300s England, fifteen-year-old Nell has served as an attendant to Princess Joan since Nell's parents died of the plague two years before. She also protects her nine-year-old brother, George, who is simple but also wise in unexpected ways. Nell bears an uncanny resemblance to Princess Joan. When the princess dies of a new plague outbreak while on a journey to meet her future husband, her brother, the Black Prince, hatches a plot to pass Nell off as the princess and marry her to a Spanish prince. Nell has no choice but to go along while she plots an escape. She finds unexpected allies in her quest to flee the Black Prince and make her way back to what she believes is safety in Bordeaux. The Plague by Joanne Dahme captures the dark mood and superstitions of Europeans during this time when the plague carried off so much of the population. The sickness had no favorites, and it infected young, old, rich, poor, healthy and weak just the same. People believed it was caused by bad air, and no one paid much attention to the rats that swarmed among them. Nell's is a tense story against this backdrop of whole nations under stress. Mother-daughter book clubs can talk about the historical time period as well as Nell's reaction to the predicament she finds herself in. I recommend The Plague for groups with girls aged 12 to 16.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dreamer93 More than 1 year ago
This book was great its story was intriuging which was what first drew me in. The concept was fun and different. The characters were okay andi would have to say that Nell's brother,George, was definitely a child with the things he said and did. I found the Black Prince very interesting in his thought pattern. It was a good book but i probably wouldn't read it again.
rebecca_herman More than 1 year ago
Nell and her younger brother George lost their parents to the plague in London, and were only rescued from the fate of being left orphaned and alone in the devastated city by chance. King Edward was traveling through the city to view the devastation of the plague for himself, and happened to notice Nell, who had a strong resemblance to his own daughter, Princess Joan. He decided to rescue the children and bring them to his castle so that Nell could be a companion and double for the princess. Now, two years later, in 1348, fifteen-year-old Nell and nine-year-old George are accompanying the princess on her journey to marry Prince Pedro of Castile. Also along for the journey is the princess's sinister older brother, the Black Prince, who frightens Nell. At the start of the sea voyage, they hear rumors that the plague has returned, and upon their arrival at Bordeaux, they discover the rumors to be truth. When Princess Joan dies of the plague, the Black Prince decides that Nell, as the princess's look-a-like, must take her place so the political marriage can occur as planned. Nell knows that this deception cannot end well and is determined to run away with George and make her way back to England and the King to tell the truth of what happened. Her escape through the plague-stricken countryside is full of peril, and she is not sure which of her unlikely allies she can truly trust. The Plague is an exciting and interesting historical novel that brings to life the plague of 1348, now known as the Black Death, which devastated Europe but which is little-written about for young adults. Although some of the events in the story seemed implausible at times, overall it was a gripping and enjoyable read that I would recommend for readers who enjoy young adult historical fiction. One thing I would have liked to have seen is a historical note about some of the real places, events, and people featured in the story, since many are not well-known to the average reader that would read this book.