As we hauled in the creels, Dond came in from the sea, disguised as a black fog.
–Siobhan Dowd - The Ransom of Dowd - c.2013
Illustrated by Pam Smy
Darra lives on the island of Inniscaul is a small island off the coast of Eriu, or Ireland. And it is her fate to be sacrificed to Dond, for she is the thirteenth child born to her mother. Long ago Dond cursed the island with fear of death and a desire for wealth and power. He also promised that if the thirteenth child was sacrificed to him then thirteen years of good fortune and prosperity would follow for Inniscaul. But if his ransom was not paid then a great storm would wash the island away.Darra was born a twin. No island woman ever gives birth intentionally to a thirteenth child, Darra’s mother was unfortunate to give birth to Darra and Bawn. Her twelfth and thirteenth children, the second twin must be the ransom. So Darra is sent to live with the village elder, raised apart and kept separate from the other islanders. Always knowing what her fate must be.
This is a wonderful gorgeous book. Smy’s artwork really brings the story to life. It is a perfect blend of word and image. You should take a look at her blog, especially the Dond Sketchbooks for an idea of the artwork. It is great.
And the story itself…
It is so simply told, and yet so full of meaning and hidden depths. On the one had it is a story of a girl fated to die. But on the other it is a story of religion and ignorance, and not always trusting what you are told. It is a story of family and love, and bonds that cannot be broken. Its a story of hope.
Dowd is the author behind A Monster Calls. She had the original idea which Patrick Ness brought wonderfully to fruition as she died before she could develop it. This is another to be published after her death, her final story. It really highlights just how much talent she had, and what a loss her death was to the literary world.