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4.1 22
by Cynthia Voigt

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Two Women

Elske, a girl with no future, until her grandmother's sacrifice saves her from certain death.

Beriel, an imperious princess, determined to claim the kingdom that is her birthright.

Fate brings them together, both exiles, one servant to the other. To Beriel, the mistress, Elske offers


Two Women

Elske, a girl with no future, until her grandmother's sacrifice saves her from certain death.

Beriel, an imperious princess, determined to claim the kingdom that is her birthright.

Fate brings them together, both exiles, one servant to the other. To Beriel, the mistress, Elske offers steadfast loyalty and courage — hard to come by in her dangerous quest to regain the throne she has been denied by treachery. To Elske, the handmaiden, Beriel's proud example provides a perhaps even more precious gift — the strength to find her true self.

Editorial Reviews


A Fantasy Finale

Newbery Medal winner Cynthia Voigt has penned a number of highly acclaimed novels for teens and young adults, among them her popular Kingdom series, which began with the fantasy tale Jackaroo, about a mythical and legendary Robin Hood-type outlaw. Two more stories followed: The Wings of a Falcon and On Fortune's Wheel, all set in the imaginary land known as the Kingdom during a time period with a strong medieval flavor. Now Voigt finishes out the series with another extraordinary adventure: Elske, the story of a young girl who escapes a destiny of certain death and goes on to play a substantial role in the history of the Kingdom. As with many of Voigt's other works, the protagonist in Elske is an admirable role model, a strong, independent, and determined young woman who embraces such values as honesty, integrity, and fairness in a world where brutality and violence often reign.

Raised among the barbaric Wolfers of Volkaric, 12-year-old Elske has been in preparation for her death her entire life. For she was chosen at birth to be the "death maiden," and her life is soon to be sacrificed to please the Volkking. But Elske's grandmother, who has raised her since infancy, pulls off a bit of last-minute chicanery so that she is the one sacrificed instead. Not only does Elske escape, but the trickery goes unnoticed by most of the villagers, a fact that will be key to the fate of both Elske and the Kingdom a few years hence.

Fate and circumstance land Elske in the far more civilized city of Trastad, where she finds work as a servant. Her lowly working status and Wolfer heritage make the people of Trastad highly wary of her, but soon her calm intelligence, friendly manner, and lack of guile earn her the respect and affection of most. When a rebellious noblewoman named Beriel, who has a reputation for being difficult, arrives in Trastad during the Winter Courting season in search of a husband, Elske is assigned to serve as the woman's handmaiden. It's a task Elske takes to with relish, and before long a bond is formed between the two women that will prove to be fateful for them both. For Beriel is the rightful heir to the throne of the Kingdom and is intent on a quest to claim her just birthright. But first she must escape the bonds of exile forced upon her by her own flesh and blood: a vindictive and jealous brother who would have the throne for himself. And part of this brother's efforts to destroy his sister have been painfully successful, forcing Beriel and Elske into a conspiracy of secrets that will seriously test the mettle of both women and jeopardize their futures.

Voigt paints the Kingdom and its surrounding lands in such brilliant detail that it's surprising to realize the region can't be found on any map of the real world. The characters are developed with amazing depth and singularity, allowing readers to fully immerse themselves in Voigt's fantasy world and connect with its inhabitants on an emotional level that is both engaging and gratifying. As a stand-alone story, Elske is an imaginative and stimulating tale of fantasy, romance, and high adventure that is sure to please readers who are new to Voigt's work. For those who have been fans all along, it will undoubtedly trigger mixed feelings. There is satisfaction to be found in the closure Elske brings to the saga of the Kingdom, but also a nostalgic sadness over this last visit to a land and a people that Voigt has brought to such vivid and memorable life in the minds and hearts of her readers.

—Beth Amos

Sally Leahey
Voigt, the 1983 Newbery Medal winner for Dicey's Song,' once again demonstrates her knack for creating characters readers feel they know. In Elske the important characters are complex, made familiar and intriguing by the author's attention to physical description and insights into their thought processes and reactions to each other. Voigt's fantasy world is complex and believable, peopled by diverse cultures in a foreign geography that seems somehow recognizable.
New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The fourth and final title in Voigt's Kingdom cycle (begun with Jackaroo) is thrilling, from its dramatic opener to its stunning climax. Newcomers to the Kingdom books can read it with as much pleasure as fans of the entire series (and without ruining for themselves the surprises of those previous works). Set in an imaginary continent that resembles medieval Europe, the story begins in the brutal realm of the Wolfers, a ruthless people among whom 12-year-old Elske has been raised and, horrifyingly, chosen for a sacrificial death. How Elske escapes this fate is the first of many ingeniously plotted turns, reversals that depend on the heroine's intelligence and determination rather than coincidence or authorial sleight-of-hand. There is much to marvel at. Voigt demonstrates a remarkable breadth of imagination in dreaming up the customs of the various lands Elske moves through; e.g., a Scandinavian-type city builds a thriving economy by hosting biannual "courting winters" for young marriageable, wealthy foreigners. The cast also includes a princess wrongfully deprived of a throne (and willing to go to war to claim it) and a man worthy of Elske but chosen for one of the princess's sisters. The characterizations are as sharp and uncompromising as Voigt's readers have come to expect, and the narration never tips the author's hand. This spellbinding work continually challenges readers to keep up with its far-seeing, swift-thinking protagonist. Ages 12-up. (Oct.) FYI: The Vermeer masterpiece that appears on the jacket, Head of a Girl (a painting that also appears this season on the cover of the adult novel Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier), links Elske with the simultaneously reissued paperback of another novel in the Kingdom cycle, On Fortune's Wheel (S&S/ Aladdin, $5.50 -82957-4), the jacket of which features Vermeer's Woman Reading a Letter. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
To quote from the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, January 2000: In Elske, Voigt has created two strong young women who play crucial roles in the history of the Kingdom: Elske, a stranger, whose courage and intelligence enable the survival of Beriel, who becomes Queen of the Kingdom with Elske's help. The first part of the book belongs to Elske. Voigt tells of Elske's role as Death Maiden in the brutal tribe she was raised in. Elske's escape leads her to a land of traders, where she earns her keep as a servant and spy, and where she meets the rebellious Beriel, who refuses to allow her brother to unlawfully grab her throne. The two young women leave the traders after near tragedy and travel to Beriel's Kingdom in order to raise the army to defend her and place her on the throne. Voigt uses all her powers as a skillful writer to create this fascinating world for her readers. In the way that The Thief suggests a Mediterranean culture in classical times, Voigt's Kingdom suggests Europe in the Dark Ages, with Elske's tribe representing the worst kind of superstitious, vicious barbarians. In a "Historical Note" at the end of the novel, Voigt adds that during Beriel's reign, the shift began from an agricultural society to a mercantile one, and in the course of the novel, we learn that a black powder that explodes is being introduced in warfare. These are hints as to where Voigt wants us to place her imagined land in a history we can understand. Rich language, a complicated plot, exotic settings—these are challenging for most readers, but also welcome in enriching literature for YAs. The cover art, a Vermeer painting of a young woman, is exactly right. KLIATT Codes:JS*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students. 1999, Simon & Schuster, 245p., $10.00. Ages 13 to 18. Reviewer: Claire Rosser; September 2001 (Vol. 35 No. 5)
Midwest Book Review
Cynthia Voigt's Elske is recommended for mature teens who like complicated young adult plots: Elske escapes her repressive animal-like people to live with a princess who comes to rely on her strengths and wise advice. Political chaos accompanies the vanished princess' attempt to regain her throne and involve Elske in some dangerous confrontations with past and present.

Product Details

San Val
Publication date:
Cynthia Voigt's Kingdom Series , #4
Product dimensions:
4.37(w) x 6.81(h) x 1.08(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

"It was you."

"Yes, my Lady." Elske didn't think this Adelinne, this Fiendly Princess, would fear her, or condemn her; and she was right, for at the acknowledgement the Adelinne smiled, a smile like the warmth of a fire on an icy winter's night, as heady as the wine-rich autumn air they breathed. "It was you. I never thought I'd meet you, and now I have. You gave me courage, two years ago, Elske, and since then, too. I wished to be you, when I didn't even know your name."

The Adelinne reached her hands out from under the cloak she wore, and removed the gloves she wore. She held her right hand out to Elske, as if they were two merchants closing on a sale, and she bowed her head to Elske, as if they were two swordsmen ending a match, and she looked Elske in the eye, as if they were Wolfer captains, about to risk their lives in battle. The girl took Elske's naked hand in hers and said, "I give you greeting, Elske. I am Beriel, who will be Queen in the Kingdom."

Copyright © 1999 by Cynthia Voigt

Meet the Author

Cynthia Voigt won the Newbery Medal for Dicey’s Song, the Newbery Honor Award for A Solitary Blue, and the National Book Award Honor for Homecoming, all part of the beloved Tillerman cycle. She is also the author of many other celebrated books for middle grade and teen readers, including Izzy, Willy-Nilly and Jackaroo. She was awarded the Margaret A. Edwards Award in 1995 for her work in literature, and the Katahdin Award in 2004. She lives in Maine.

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Elske 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Yes I agree the begining was a little gross but it had a nice ending and I enjoyed it. The plot was a little puzzling at first but if you read on it will soon become clear. I dont know if I would read it again but was still enjoyable
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this book an interesting read. I'm addicted to all genres of heroine books. Women have the ability to express a kind of strength that men will never have. That isn't to say I'm opposed to love stories, as you might find here, and this one is a favourite of mine. I did not previously know that there were more Novels of the Kingdom, and am excited to read them.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Okay, I couldn't even finish this book. I was just so confused. The plot made little sense and I just didn't get it. And the beginning was completely barbaric. The book was so random, and instead of being interested or drawn to the book, I was merely puzzled.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love reading Voigt's Novels of the Kingdom, but I have to say I was a bit disappointed when I read this one. Voigt could have put a lot more interesting things in there and also taken a lot of boring stuff out to improve it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was. . . interesting. It was probably my least favorite out of the Novels of the Kingdom. Voigt could have left some things out to make it more enjoyable. Overall it was a pretty good story though.
Guest More than 1 year ago
a book that can gives you the strength and courage to live life. It will lead you to believe that a girl can be much more than 'just a girl'
Guest More than 1 year ago
this was the first book i ever borrowed from a library because it caught my eye (before this book i bought everything i read). The book enthralled to the point i could never put it down going on for hours off end reading. If you are looking for a book of heroism then this is for you. Elske's bravery and stubborness can be related to.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Thrilling and intriging this book will keep you glued to the pages to read nonstop
Guest More than 1 year ago
A very good and well written book, one you can read over and over. It's one of my favorites.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have to admit that I had expected allot more from this book. It's certainly thrilling at times, but it's underlying grotesqueness left me unable to really enjoy the characters. The only book in this series that I really enjoyed was On Fortune's Wheel. Elske seems to mirror the dak side portrayed in On the Wings of a Falcon.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book has become one of my favorites. I've read it multiple times and would recommend it to anyone! I have to admit, I judge books by their covers and this one grabbed me. Ms. Voigt has definate talent. Her characters- Elske, Beriel, Dugald, and all the others- were believable and wonderfully written out. The ending was good but since the last 2 pages were an epilouge I was dissapointed because she could have used that to make the book longer or for a sequel. I loved this story! The main characters are strong, interesting, and do not disappoint!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book because it was so believable. Voigt really outdid herself with Elske. A truely magnificent adventure story, Elske is a must-read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was outstanding! After the first couple of chapters I was completely enthralled in the intriguing tale of Elske's life. The story was expertly crafted, the dialog seemed natural, and the characters were all well developed. I really enjoyed it! And since it was the first book I've ever read by Voigt, it's safe to say that it definitely wasn't my last.
Guest More than 1 year ago
WOW this book is about a girl that has an unexplainable personality,She is strong willed and a good person. If you like a mix of exciting history and a real time passer i recomend this book to any age!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought this was the best book I've read in a long time. I thought the ending was kind of boring though also.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book, to a certain extent. I thought that it brought The Kingdom series to too abrupt of an end. The character movement advances too swiftly for you to be sure what events lead up to the change in Elske's heart. I also found the epilogue at the end a disappointment; however, I thought that the relationships between the characters were as superb as in any other Voigt book. A must read for any Jackaroo lover but not up to Voigt¿s usual standards.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a Really good book. It's filled with adventure, suspense, history, mythology, and a name of a girl that you can not pronounce.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought that this book was a wonderful story. It had just the right amount of truth in it to make is seem real. I loved how Elske didn't act like the usual 'damsle in distress' that we see so common today. I was glad when everything worked out with a believable somewhat happy ending. Thanx for listening!
Guest More than 1 year ago
With a heroine who thinks for herself, speaks for herself, and knows how to take care of herself, Elske is a welcome addition to any library or bookshelf. Give this to any teen, female or male, and share the wonder of Cynthia Voigt.