The Executioner's Daughter

( 5 )


The riveting tale of an executioner's daughter who struggles to find a different path in life

Born into the family of an executioner, Lily has always been sheltered by her mother from the horrors of her father's occupation. But when her ailing mother takes a turn for the worse, Lily is suddenly thrust into the paralyzing role of executioner's assistant. Aside from preparing healing concoctions for the suffering and maimed, Lily must now accompany her father at the town ...

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The riveting tale of an executioner's daughter who struggles to find a different path in life

Born into the family of an executioner, Lily has always been sheltered by her mother from the horrors of her father's occupation. But when her ailing mother takes a turn for the worse, Lily is suddenly thrust into the paralyzing role of executioner's assistant. Aside from preparing healing concoctions for the suffering and maimed, Lily must now accompany her father at the town executions, something she has never done before. Though she loves her father, the emotional burden of his disturbing profession is just too much for her to bear. Lily must find a way to change her destiny, no matter the consequences.

Set in medieval England, this well-researched and beautifully written novel tells the story of one girl's fight to rise above her fate.

Thirteen-year-old Lily, daughter of the town's executioner living in fifteenth-century Europe, decides whether to fight against her destiny or to rise above her fate.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
This is the touching story of a young girl trapped within the unique caste system that is the life of an medieval executioner and his family. Ostracized from the village, Lily has no friends. The family cannot attend church or even have a church burial, and no midwife would attend Lily's birth. When not needed for executions, Will and his gentle wife Allyce work as healers, their only customers coming under cover of darkness. Lily longs to have healing powers and gentle hands like her mother, and practices on the wounded animals she finds in the isolated forest around her home. This story chronicles a turbulent year in Lily's life in which she finally gains a friend from the village, faces a terrible personal loss, and learns a dark secret about her mother's past. Most importantly, it is a growingup year when Lily learns that the world is not simply black and white, but that shades of gray make the law, and her father's job, sometimes difficult to accept. Lily is faced with the question of her future—while she loves the art of healing which she learned from her parents, she hates the legacy of being the executioner's daughter. The specter of someday following in her father's footsteps looms heavily over her. Williams masterfully crafts this tale of a lonely young girl faced with a grim past, a murky future and some very difficult decisions. Her medieval research was well done and she leaves nothing out with regard to executions, which can make the book difficult at times. Overall, however, it is a forceful story about the power of love. 2000, Henry Holt and Company, Ages 10 to 14, $15.95. Reviewer: Elizabeth Pabrinkis
Lily lives with her mother and father in England during the Middle Ages. The family resides outside the high walls that surround the town, and they keep to themselves. Lily's parents maintain an apothecary shop where they prepare herbs for medicinal use, but her father's real occupation is executioner. Lily has little contact with anyone except her parents because her father's job makes others fear and avoid the family. When her mother dies, Lily is forced to become the executioner's assistant. She must help her father when he goes to town to build a gallows and must cut off the hand of a man caught stealing pies. There are many good stories set in the Middle Ages, but this tale is exceptional. The character of Lily is developed well as she gathers herbs, wanders alone in the forest, and tends to injured animals. She eventually becomes friends with John, a boy who is mistreated at home and needs an understanding friend. She teaches him how to care for the animals she nurses, and she compliments him on the good job he does. All occurs against the dark backdrop of her father's job. The author reveals to the reader a side of the Middle Ages that is rarely seen in young adult fiction. Williams does not overdramatize Lily's situation, but she makes it clear that there was an ever-present dark element to the period. The book will appeal to readers with an interest in the Middle Ages, but it is such a good story that many will enjoy it if only they find out about it. This story has a place in any school or public library. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades7 to 9). 2000, Henry Holt, 134p, $15.95. Ages 12 to 15. Reviewer: Sue Krumbein

SOURCE: VOYA, October 2000 (Vol. 23, No. 4)

School Library Journal
Gr 6-8-A historical novel set in England in 1450. Gentle, sensitive Lily has the misfortune to be the daughter of the village executioner. The other children taunt and torment her and her only friends are the wounded forest animals that she nurses back to health. When her mother dies, Lily knows that it is her destiny to replace her as the executioner's assistant. Suddenly the ugliness from which she has been shielded all her life becomes all too real. She faces the difficult choice of remaining loyal to her loving but remote father or leaving to try to make a better life for herself. Ironies abound in the deceptively simple story. Lily's parents also earn a living by selling herbs and are expert healers. Her father is reviled by the citizens of the town, but they turn out in droves to watch him work. He is viewed by all as a brute, yet he must drink heavily in order to carry out his duties. Lily is a strong, insightful child, wise beyond her years yet still vulnerable. This well-written story is an excellent vehicle for demonstrating the harsh realities of life in the Middle Ages. It can be used effectively with Karen Cushman's Catherine Called Birdy (1994) and The Midwife's Apprentice (1995, both Clarion) and serves as a curriculum link as well as a pleasurable read. A brief afterword provides needed historical background.-Bruce Anne Shook, Mendenhall Middle School, Greensboro, NC Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Kirkus Reviews
Williams (ABC Kids, below, etc.) takes readers back to a squalid, brutal 15th century for this heavy tale of a family tormented by its dreadful occupation. Because Lily's father and mother are the local lord's executioners, she and her parents must live outside the town walls, banned from the church, feared, and shunned by all. Ironically, these killers are also healers, making ends meet between executions by providing occasional furtive visitors with herbal poultices and remedies. Lily's father takes refuge in drink; she and her mother in each other and in caring for injured wild animals. Then the fragile equilibrium that Lily has built shatters as, in succession, her mother sickens and dies, peer pressure destroys a budding friendship with a town child, and her naïve notion that criminals automatically deserve what they get unravels when she witnesses horrible punishments meted out for trivial offenses, then learns that her own mother escaped hanging by marrying her father. She leaves in the end, hoping to escape the stigma. Despite a contrived final hint that Lily has made a new and happier life for herself, this brief story is so weighed down by its tormented cast and narrow setting that it's more akin to John Morressey's grim Juggler (1996) than Karen Cushman's Midwife's Apprentice (1995). (Fiction. 11-13)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805081862
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
  • Publication date: 6/28/2007
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 862,568
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Lexile: 720L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.33 (d)

Meet the Author

Laura E. Williams is the author of Up a Creek and Behind the Bedroom Wall, which was named a Jane Addams Peace Award Honor Book. She lives in West Hartford, Connecticut.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 9, 2013

    The novel, The Executioner's Daughter written by Laura E. Willia

    The novel, The Executioner's Daughter written by Laura E. Williams is a wonderful novel that is build upon the fact that executioner's and their families do not have the same advantages the other village people have. They are shunned by others, forced to live outside the village, and not allowed to attend gatherings and special events. The main character Lily, has a cursed life ever since she was born, because she is the executioner's daughter. She does not get to play with the other children in the village, so instead she heals for wounded animals she finds in the forest, while her mother has the role of the executioner's assistant. After time, Lily's mother gets ill from a fever, and dies. Replacing her mother, Lily has to assist her father as the executioner's assistant, but how can she help to kill  when she has a passion for caring and healing? Lily is a very strong character who learns to live with the circumstances she has to face whether she likes it or not. I highly recommend this novel to ages 10 to 14 who likes to read captivating and inspiring stories, because Laura E. Williams is the author of a very well-written one!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2005

    The Executioner's Daughter is an awesome book!

    The Executioner's Daughter is one of the best books i have read in a long time. I love books set in the Middle Ages. But, it was also sad as well. The fact that Lily and her family were shunned and not allowed in church was interesting yet sad. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes historical fiction and books set in the Middle Ages.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2003

    Good book, very acurate

    This book was written by an author who has written many other books of this time period. Laura E. Williams gives an accurate overview of Middle Ages life. The book is very descriptive, and has good twists in it. I would reccomend this book highly!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2002

    A great but sad book

    This book is very accurate in historical facts about the middle ages, and the story is very sad. It is hard to believe that an executioner was not allowed to go to church. Read this book now!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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