Keturah and Lord Death

Keturah and Lord Death

Martine Leavitt

Keturah charms Lord Death—but only for a day.

Keturah is dying when she is approached by a young, handsome lord, melancholy and stern. He is Lord Death. Keturah is able to charm him with a story and thereby gain a reprieve—but only for twenty-four hours.


  • Ages: 14 - 17
  • Grades: 9 - 12
  • Pages: 216

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Recent Reviews

7 A darkly gorgeous medieval fairy tale. ... A fine achievement.

—Publishers Weekly

7 A dark, but uplifting story combining elements of fantasy as well as romance. It has a gripping plot, strong characters, and a surprise ending that will intrigue readers.

—School Library Journal

7 The romance is intense, the writing is startling, and the story is spellbinding. ... This novel gets so many things just right. ... Readers will be carried away on the wind of Leavitt's words, and few will be able to guess how she finally ends her story.

—Booklist

Lyrical and compelling, Leavitt's novel uses the conventions of traditional fairy tales to weave together a story of love and life in a rich medieval setting. Keturah is a strong character who is as enchanting as her stories, and through Keturah's eyes, the dirty village of Tide-by-Rood and its inhabitants become a magical setting worth cheating Death to save. Teen fans of fantasy and fairy tales will be as charmed by Keturah as Lord Death himself.

—Voice of Youth Advocates

Lyrical. ...Keturah's quest is lovely if (given its folktale style) not so original, but her unexpected solution to the puzzle leads to a thought-provoking and unabashedly sentimental conclusion.

—Kirkus Reviews

Thought-provoking. ...Lucid and arresting. ...Glimpses of poetry carry the tale.

—Horn Book

The passionate relationship of Keturah and Lord Death, blossoming out of an early fascination and strong friendship, is both realistic and otherworldly. Leavitt integrates the sweeping romance with a timeless story of a headstrong girl who is certain that, given enough time, she can create a perfect world. And indeed, happy endings abound in the novel, though Keturah's notion of a faultless and effortless true love are fortunately banished in favor of a recognition that sacrifice and compromise accompany relationships as often as ideal moments. Lord Death, mysterious and gorgeous, and Keturah, brilliant and beautiful, will be irresistible to romance fans as well as those who like a bit of passion woven into their fantasy.

—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

Darkly romantic...haunting. ...A blend of folktale, myth and romance, the book's thought-provoking conclusion is perfect for adolescent pondering.

—Toronto Star

When sixteen-year-old Keturah is taken by Death, she uses her storytelling skills to bargain with the lord. Caught in the web of her story, he grants her a day's respite so he can hear the rest and promises that if she finds her true love, he will let her live. This unusual blend of folktale, myth, and romance has an unexpected, thought-provoking conclusion.

—Horn Book Guide

The conclusion is the best part of this novel-length fairy tale: at once unexpected and inevitable, sad and triumphant, satisfying yet abidingly mysterious. ...Readers who think they know exactly where the story is headed will find themselves pleasantly surprised. Not that Leavitt frustrates all expectations - much of what clearly has to happen does happen. But she takes what looks on the surface like a rather shallow story and plunges it, from time to time, into the depths that come only with pain.

—New York Times Book Review

Wonderfully drawn characters and several lively and relevant subplots that place Keturah at the center of her village's economic and social rebirth add to this folkloric tale in which friendship, courage, nobility, and sacrifice all play critical roles. As for love? On that topic, Leavitt deftly leads readers on a journey whose ending could not be more surprising . . . or perhaps not surprising at all for any who pay close attention to the Emily Dickinson lines that comprise the epigraph at the start of the story: "Because I could not stop for Death / He kindly stopped for me; / The carriage held but just ourselves / And Immortality.

—CCBC Choices (University of Wisconsin)

Stippled with light and shadow and crowned with an ending that will leave teens breathless, this resonant fantasy centers on Keturah's attempts to evade destiny--nothing less than death itself--by seeking the true love that will null its claim.

—Booklist

With elements of a medieval tale, this magical novel narrated by Keturah, the village storyteller, describes how she follows a mythical hart into the forest and meets Lord Death.

—Publishers Weekly

Martine Leavitt has intertwined the Scheherazade legend of the Arabian Nights into an English legend of love and sacrifice. Keturah is a 16-year-old girl with a gift for storytelling. After following a large, majestic hart into the woods, she becomes hopelessly lost and meets the dark, handsome personification of Death. He is beguiled by her beauty and willing to allow her one more day before claiming her if she will finish the story she has started to tell him and name her true love. But he also tells her about the plague beginning in Great Town, not far from her beloved village of Tide-by-Rood. At the end of the day she knows she needs more time to find her true love, and so have a conclusion to the story she is telling. Through the intervening days, she is drawn into the village, into working with the son of Lord Temsland in encouraging the peasants and craftsmen to clean the mill and build a road as a way to stave off disease. She also makes a deal with the local "witch" for a charm that will help her identify her true love and free her from having to meet Death. After a slow start, the novel twists and turns through Keturah's dilemas and solutions. Leavitt mixes elements of legend and folklore into a clever discussion of the role of death in the lives of humans. As Keturah comes to better know and understand Death, she is convinced that is power is not evil and she is better able to appreciate all the daily details of life around her.

—KLIATT

Top 10 Youth Romances.
Keturah, a Scheherazade figure, falls in love with Lord Death while spinning a story to save her life. A spellbinding, fantastical romance.

—Booklist

Honors for Keturah and Lord Death

  • Top 10 Women's History Books for Youth—Booklist
  • Best of the Best Books List produced by the Chicago Public Library
  • National Book Award Finalist, Young People's Literature
  • CCBC Choices
  • Books for the Teen Age—NYPL
  • Pennsylvania School Librarians Association YA Top Forty List, Fiction
  • ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Award Winner, Bronze, Young Adult Fiction
  • Bulletin Blue Ribbon, Fiction —Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
  • Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Awards, Master List, Young Adult
  • Junior Library Guild selection

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