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Keturah and Lord Death

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Martine Leavitt offers a spellbinding story, interweaving elements of classic fantasy and high romance in this National Book Award Finalist. Keturah follows a legendary hart into the king's forest, where she becomes hopelessly lost. Her strength diminishes until, finally, she realizes that death is near. Little does she know that he is a young, handsome lord, melancholy and stern. Renowned for her storytelling, Keturah is able to charm Lord Death with a story and thereby gain a reprieve but only for twenty-four hours. She must find her one true love within that time or all is lost. Keturah searches desperately while the village prepares for an unexpected visit from the king, and Keturah is thrust into a prominent role as mysterious happenings alarm her friends and neighbors. Lord Death's presence hovers over this all until Keturah confronts him one last time in the harrowing climax.

216 pages, Hardcover

First published November 28, 2006

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About the author

Martine Leavitt

14 books208 followers
Martine Leavitt has published ten novels for young adults, most recently Calvin, which won the Governor General’s Award of Canada. My Book of Life by Angel was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and winner of the Canadian Library Association Young Adult Book of the Year. Other titles by Leavitt include Keturah and Lord Death, a finalist for the National Book Award, Tom Finder, winner of the Mr. Christie Award, and Heck Superhero, a finalist for the Governor General’s Award. Her novels have been published in Japan, Korea, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and the Netherlands. Currently she teaches creative writing at Vermont College of Fine Arts, a short-residency MFA program. She lives in High River, Alberta.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,323 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,964 reviews294k followers
July 5, 2015
“There is no hell, John Temsland. Each man, when he dies, sees the landscape of his own soul.”

This book kind of stomped all over my heart. Not because of the love story, which I don't consider a spoiler because anyone with a brain will see it coming from the beginning (Or the cover. Or the description.). But because of the beautiful, magical simplicity of the writing and the world and the characters. I love stories like this, that capture the timeless magic of fairy tales and make you feel like you're reading a story that is centuries old even when it clearly isn't.

The story is about a young woman called Keturah who loses her way in the woods. After days of wandering around and growing weaker and weaker, Lord Death eventually arrives for her. Keturah distracts Lord Death by telling him a love story, however, she cleverly withholds the ending and promises only to tell it to him if he allows her another day to live. One more condition is that, if she can find her true love in that time, he must let her live a full life. And so begins Keturah's mission to find her true love and postpone her date with death. Like all good fantasy, this mission introduces the reader to kings, magic spells, plagues and prophecies. I was mesmerised.

The writing has a beautiful tone to it that is hard to explain with a few simple quotes from the book. It's haunting, a little melancholy even, but this mood suits the setting and nature of the story perfectly. I think I need to be careful with my promises of kings and magic because this is not a wild and crazy tale filled with fast-paced action, it's a relatively quiet novel. But, that being said, it still managed to drag me in instantly and not let go. I think the subtlety of this story actually speaks volumes and carries the emotions better than any fast-paced action could.

An absolutely beautiful novel that was better than I'd ever anticipated. There is something about this last haunting piece of truth that gives me goosebumps:

“You, my lord, are the ending of all true stories.”

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Profile Image for Samantha.
417 reviews16.7k followers
February 12, 2021
This is a lovely Hades and Persephone retelling, more in the vein of inspired by than a direct retelling. This reminded me a lot of the dynamic in The Winternight Trilogy, with a fairytale-like plot and interactions between Death and Keturah less frequent. The personalities of the two main characters were spot on, and I loved her quiet strength and connection to death as a concept.
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,401 reviews11.7k followers
June 5, 2017
Update 6/5/2017 Interesting, I feel exactly the same now as I did 6 years ago...

I have been such a Debbie Downer lately, moaning so much about lack of good books, that I completely forgot how much I enjoyed Keturah and Lord Death.

You know how some authors can infuse magic in their works using simple, everyday words? Their stories always have that fairy tale air about them. Robin McKinley is great at it, Laini Taylor, Erin Bow, Juliet Marillier. And so is Martine Leavitt.

Keturah and Lord Death is a simple enough novel with familiar fairy tale themes. 16-year old Keturah loses her way in a forest. After 3 days of wandering and hunger, she meets Lord Death who is there to take her life. Keturah, the smart maiden she is, uses her storytelling skills (akin to those of Scheherazade) to postpone her death under the condition that she has to find her true love.

The story is your pretty usual magical fare with kings, villages and witches, the ending is a no-brainer, but the writing itself is mesmerizing, spellbinding, and at the same time very, very simple. This is the kind of writing that, in spite of its simplicity, takes years and years to polish into a short and almost flawless story.

Keturah and Lord Death would have been a 5-star read for me if, like Plain Kate, the story itself was more mature and the romance more... passionate I guess. I need me some serious loving in fantasy, I can't help it.
Profile Image for Maggie Stiefvater.
Author 88 books168k followers
September 5, 2010
I am having one of those lucky runs of book reading where I keep pulling very Maggie books off the shelves. Of course, this book had come highly recommended to me as a Maggie-book, but . . . well, it's just not the sort of summary that begs you to pull it off the shelf. It's the historical, aspect, I think -- I invariably end up enjoying a lot of historicals over the course of the year, but I always think, before I start them, that they'll be more work.


The plot of this slender novel is simple: Keturah follows a stag into the forest, grows lost, and eventually meets her death. Death, in this case, is a tall, dark, handsome AngstPuppy. Because Keturah has been wandering in the woods for three days, he's come for her because please, man cannot live by roots and twigs alone. Keturah begins to tell Death a story, however, and withholds the ending -- telling Death that she'll conclude it the next day, if he lets her live. Well, Death, despite being dreadfully emo and easily pissed cannot resist. So it goes for three days, in a tightly constructed fable.

So I pretty much love this book incoherently (I kept making noises out loud and annoying Lover), but I'll try to break it down.

1. Writing. It's very tight. Also, full of little presents to the careful reader like repeated instances of three, barely stated character development, and clever plot twists.

2. Strong girl characters! Without being anachronistic. Keturah is brave, loyal, and independent. She's also afraid, idealistic, and longing for true love, a house to put him in, and a baby. I have to say that after reading a ton of novels where feminist strength is portrayed as not wanting to get married, not wanting kids, not wanting true love -- it was refreshing. I think it's too easy to default to Katniss as a "strong female character." I love Katniss, don't get me wrong, but she is not strong -- she's broken and incapable of love. Her rejection of love is not strength. I love a strong character where the girl is operating perfectly fine without a man, but she's also willing to be open to love. And there's a lot of love of many different sorts in this book. Friendly, familial, romantic.

3. The end. My friend who recommended this book to me said that she almost afraid that the ending would ruin it, but that it came around. As I wasn't exactly sure what ending my friend would like, I didn't have any clue what that meant, even as I was reading it. But then I got there and I thought OH NO IT'S GOING TO END THIS WAY. And then, it didn't. It was perfect.

I'm not sure this book is for everyone; those raised on fairy tales like myself will love it. I'd recommend it for people who loved YEAR OF WONDERS and Jane Yolen and Lloyd Alexander and all of those movies with Disney princesses and princes named Eric.
January 23, 2023

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This is a charming story reminiscent of some of Gail Carson Levine or Margaret Peterson Haddix's work. It's a fairytale that borrows from Beauty and the Beast, 1001 Nights, as well as the Persephone myth from Greek mythology, telling the story of a girl named Keturah who follows a hart into the woods and ends up meeting Death. To her surprise, he isn't the grim horror she imagined, but a beautiful man, and he has demanded that she return with him to the underworld. But Keturah is not ready to leave, and so she decides to borrow more time with a story.

In addition to the will she, won't she? element of the tale she tells to save her life, Keturah's medieval village is in the midst of some major turmoil. Her two friends are trying to help her find the love of her life (but also secretly looking for their own), and Death (and death) are omnipresent due to poor living conditions, child birth, and plague. The story broadens to include the circumstances of many of the townsfolk, who end up playing major roles in the choices Keturah makes, including a game-changing one at the very end.

I've been wanting to read this book for ten years, and I'm afraid I hyped it up pretty heavily in my own mind. It didn't quite live up to expectations. The tone was a bit uneven-- parts were very dark, and other parts were light, almost fluffy. They didn't quite mesh. And as much as I loved the writing style, and admired how the author was able to capture that "timeless" fairytale element that only Disney really succeeds at these days (side note: this would make a great Disney movie), Keturah was a raging Mary Sue and her only personality characteristic was wanting to find true love and being impossibly beautiful. So, actually, just like a Disney Princess.

For younger audiences, I think this book will be much more successful. I actually read a story with a similar storyline, only for adults, called THE DEMON OF DARKLING REACH, and this book really could not compare. It was just a little too young for me, even though it deals with some mature concepts in a really thoughtful way, like coming to terms with mortality and trying to force fate. That ending though-- it really yanks at your heartstrings. I almost wanted to give it an extra star for the ending alone. So good.

3 to 3.5 stars
Profile Image for Amanda.
325 reviews
March 21, 2012
I can't even tell you how much I loved this book...made even more special because it will forever be the book that I read the day my mom died. And I think that was "meant to be". The way death (not the person) is treated in the book is so reverential and gave me a great perspective...like this passage:

"Tell me what it is like to die."
He dismounted from his horse, looking at me strangely the whole while, "You experience something similar every day, " he said softly. "It is as familiar to you as bread and butter."
"Yes," I said. "It is like every night when I fall asleep."
"No. It is like every morning when you wake up."


The whole book was beautiful and even poetic at moments.

I think Keturah might be my favorite heroine ever. She was an amazing combination of humor, intelligence, bravery, compassion, charity and beauty.

And what would it be like to see Death in love? You'll have to read to find out.

Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.7k followers
February 6, 2018
Medieval peasant Keturah, a beautiful 16 year old girl known for her story-telling abilities, sees a lovely hart in the forest and decides to follow it for a while (because medieval peasants had lots of time to wander after stray harts) and ends up hopelessly lost. After three days of wandering in the forest, she meets Death in person when he comes to take her.

Not this guy.

Lord Death is kind of hot, but ice-cold at the same time.

So Keturah bargains with Lord Death, trying to get another chance at life. After several arguments fail, she does the Scheherazade thing, beginning a story to suck him in and telling him that he can get the rest of the story the next day, if he'll only let her take care of a few more things in her village--and also try to find True Love--before he takes her away. So he gives her one day, and then another, and another, while Keturah frantically tries to figure out who her true love is supposed to be and, in her spare time, also tries to figure out how to stop the plague, which Death let slip is on its way to her village.

The writing is poetic and Laden With Deep Meaning:
Compared with the forest, what was our village? We hid in our hovels, pretending the forest was not all around us, though it sang while the ax gnawed at its edges. It grew and breathed and cast its long shadows.
It might be a bit much for some tastes, but I enjoyed it. However, there were several things that bugged. Among them (not an exhaustive list here):

1. The "search for true love" thing is driven by (I kid you not) an eyeball that Keturah gets from a witch in her village. It wiggles around in her pocket until she sees the man she is to love.


The whole idea just didn't work for me, and not just because of the squickiness factor. Figure out your own dang heart, girl.

2. Keturah's two friends, who keep trying to push her toward the guys they actually love themselves, even after Keturah says she's not interested. Sweet, but not convincing. At least there are no mean girls here.

3. The love, um, quadrangle? Three-pronged trident? Whatever.

4. The characterization: on the shallow side.

On the other hand, some of the writing really was lovely. I think the author had some interesting ideas and metaphors. It went down easy, for the most part; it just felt a little flat for me in the end.

3.5 stars.
Profile Image for Anne.
3,922 reviews69.3k followers
February 15, 2021
This is one of those books that teetered between Wow! This is awesome!, and What the hell is this?. In the end, I think that size really does matter because I believe the length of the book was its saving grace. There were some things in it that probably would have really annoyed me if the book had been much longer, but the author managed to keep it short and sweet at around 200 pages.
I would recommend Keturah and Lord Death to anyone who likes a nice blend of fairytale and fantasy.
Profile Image for SR.
1,649 reviews50 followers
July 24, 2008
Keturah is an idiot, nothing that happened seemed to have a point, Death is the Biggest Woobie Ever, it ripped off Scheherazade without even the benefit of psychotic sultans, and the flowery prose was both inefficient and irritating beyond belief.

The good thing? It only took me three hours.

Also, I am sick and tired of all this "one true love" business. OTPs are fun to squee about in fandom, but dear God, there needs to be some reason for you to be together other than "IT'S DESTINYYYYY" (I am looking at YOU, Stephenie Meyer). It's a cheap Get Out of Characterization Free card. It's lazy and unrealistic and stupid.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Mir.
4,862 reviews5,007 followers
November 30, 2008
This story starts with a young woman following a mysterious hart into the woods, where she becomes lost for days. On the verge of death, she sees Lord Death and bargains for an extra day of life to find her true love. Also, she learns from Lord Death that the plague is coming and wants to warn people so they can stop it. I guess I was supposed to be rooting for her as she accomplishes various not very interesting feats, saves the village, gets her friends married off, and reaches the conclusion I was expecting from the first chapter. Unfortunately, the protagonist, Keturah, never developed much personality, so it was hard to take interest in a first-person narrative that was largely internal to her. We are told that she wants to marry for love, but her criterion seems mostly to be mens' looks, and her stated desire to help her friends and neighbors was oddly lacking in emotion. It was as if the author thought that declaring the heroine to be beautiful and fond of children was enough to create a character. The historical details were also pretty shaky (she invents lemon meringue pie, sure) and I didn't find any surprises in the plot.
Profile Image for Irene Sim.
711 reviews79 followers
February 3, 2023
It's been a while since I've enjoyed a book only for the prose and not the plot. I don't remember exactly how this book found its way into my TBR list, but I'm glad I gave it a chance.

Excellent storytelling, an imaginative cast of characters, a magical time-frame that borders classic fairy tales. The writing has the quality of making the make belief into reality, the plot flows in a way that you can't stop to question them based on common sense. It is full of remarkable quotes, too many to put on simple review.

"If timely death came only to those who deserved that fate, Keturah, where would choice be? No one would do good for its own sake, but only to avoid an early demise. No one would speak out against evil because of his own courageous soul, but only to live another day. The right to choose is man's great gift, but one thing is not his to choose-the time and means of death"

So why give it only 4 stars? Well I had two minor issues.
First, the heroine was annoying a lot. Most of the time she had difficulty to see what was in front of her very eyes. (And don't let me start on the "eye" - brrrr).

And second, the impersonation of death and the qualities and deeds attributed to him, were way out of my comfort zone and mindset.

But aside from my personal issues, a beautiful story nonetheless well worthy of reading.
Profile Image for Bonnie.
493 reviews39 followers
March 8, 2008
Gah! This book was wonderful, and would be an automatic add to my favorites, except for 2 things. I know. Me and my 2 picky things, but they're big issues. Maybe eventually this will go in my favorites, but for now those 2 things are bugging me too much.

Keturah follows a beautiful deer into the woods one day, and after a long chase, discovers that she is lost and cannot find her way back. On the verge of dying, Lord Death comes to take her, but, Keturah, renowned in her small town for her storytelling abilities, tells Lord Death the story of a girl who has lived her whole life waiting for her true love. Lord Death is taken by her story, and also by her, and lets her have a reprieve of one day, but he will take her as his own wife the next night if she has not found her true love.

The next day Keturah goes to the town Witch and gets an enchanted eye ball from her. She will know when she has found her true love when she looks him in the eyes and the eyeball stills it's searching, but, despite looking at the men in town all day, the eyeball keeps searching.

Growing desperate, she gets another's day reprieve by telling Lord Death another story, but, if the eye never stills, and she never finds her true love, what can her fate possibly be?

If that synopsis doesn't make you want to read it, nothing will, and you should. It's a REALLY good story...but what are my 2 picky issues? Well, I'll try really hard not to give anything away.
The first one is that there is a small part before and after the story, that shows that Keturah is telling the story, that makes up the rest of the book, to a group of people. But within the context of the story, that scenario is impossible. I don't know if that is supposed to put the story into a new light, and I was almost tempted to reread the book to figure it out, but it just does not make sense unless everything that happened in the story is just a made up story that Keturah is telling...but then what really did happen to her?
The second issue is that Keturah knows that someone in the story is in love with her, even if it is debatable whether she loves him, and she uses the fact that he is in love with her to get out of him everything that she wants, again and again. Although it is true that if someone is in love with you, you do hold a sort of power over them, I think it is dispicable to abuse that power, so the fact that Keturah does, dims my opinion of her a great deal.

Overall, it's a really good story. It sucks you in, and keeps you guessing through out. I also think that Keturah is written as a powerful and proactive character. It's almost as if she lives her life as if she knows what the end result is going to be, which I felt made her seem almost otherworldly powerful, but my 2 issues with the book keep me from adding it to my favorites right now.
Profile Image for Linda .
1,811 reviews256 followers
March 27, 2016
A Fairy Tale

"Keturah, tell us a story, one of your tales of faerie or magic."

Yes, Keturah, do, but I would have a tale of love."

"A story, yes, but a hunting tale, please, one of daring and death."

"One to comfort your heart on a gloomy day."

And so it was. Keturah told her tale of following a great stag into the forest and she became lost. Without food or water for three days, she slowly started to die and who should she meet on the third day? Lord Death.

Except she refused to go to The Great Beyond without a challenge. A story with an ending that Death would have to wait for one more day. To let her live. And can you guess what it was? Of course, it was about true love; the purest form of love.

I loved the rich and descriptive word-treasures that Ms. Leavitt fused while telling this fable:

On finding the man she was to wed:"I care not a bit what the villagers say. Not a speck, not a whit, not a jot, not a tittle."

Waiting for Lord Death to return: "I sat frozen on my bed listening to the whistle of the stream of cold forest wind as it blew from a crack near the window. At times it was like the scream of a woman whose loved one is brought home lifeless, and at times like the whimpering of a child whose mother will never again come to him in the night. He was waiting for me, his horse, Night, beside him."

Lord Death wanted an ending, so Keturah told him: "And then he laughed- a great, deep, echoing laugh that made the branches lash as if startled and the black stallion shy and whinny. He raised his arms and spun in his high black boots and laughed again, and his laugh rang into the forest as if he would laugh all the trees down."

And, finally, Keturah reveals her true love: "You find that when he speaks, the most ordinary words become poetry. When he stands close to you, your life becomes a song, a praise. When he touches you, your smallest talents become gold; the most ordinary love breaks your heart with their beauty."

The End.

Profile Image for Izza Mae (books&teacups).
147 reviews51 followers
January 25, 2020
Actual rating: 4.5

This story is told in such an enchanting prose whoch left me feeling captivated and engrossed.

Though the story is short with less than 300 pages, it still managed to enthrall me and sweep me away. There is a lyrical quality in which the words were combined and the story was procured.

“You, my lord, are the ending of all true stories.”

It is fantastical, it is haunting, it is mesmerizing. In other words, it is simply beautiful.
Profile Image for Angie.
645 reviews997 followers
June 18, 2008
This one has been getting lots of good press and was a National Book Award Finalist for 2006. Keturah and Lord Death is a sort of Scheherezade meets Beauty and the Beast meets the Persephone myth, in which a young woman is forced to spin a new tale each night to keep her captor from killing her. In this version, her captor is, in fact, Death himself (hence the Persephone connection), and he actually lets her go on the condition that she will return the following night with the end of the tale. Should she be able to find her true love in that time, he will release her from her promise and Death will no longer stalk young Keturah.

The story is set in the rather charmingly vague village of Tide-by-Rood, located at the far edge of the country of Angleland. The setting exuded a sort of Canterbury Tales feel, while the townspeople reminded me of the denizens of a Hawthorne novel, everyone suspicious of everyone else and nobody with the guts to question the status quo or talk about the things that need talking about. In the course of trying to save herself from Lord Death and her village from the plague, Keturah steps up and speaks out in order to unite the villagers under a common cause. I liked the setting, the names, and the people. The world Martine Leavitt set up is full of dark shadows and possibilities.

It was about 100 pages when things started to pick up for me. It felt like Leavitt sort of found her stride at that point. The writing felt a little deeper, the pace a little more controlled. The thing is, the book is only 216 pages long and the halfway mark proved a little to late to really suck me in. I felt like I was reading the abridged version of a full-length work. It needed to be either 100 pages shorter or 200 pages longer. As is, it felt too abbreviated. I never could get a handle on Keturah or Lord Death. Neither one felt fully formed. They were both shadowy compositions and every time I tried to glimpse them clearly, they slipped behind a tree and out of sight. I really did want to get to know them better but never got the chance because the book was over, she'd made her choice, and I was left with just a taste of something that could have been delicious but now I'll never know.
Profile Image for A.G. Howard.
Author 19 books8,709 followers
July 8, 2020
Beautifully written! How has this slipped under my radar for so long?
Profile Image for Drew.
449 reviews504 followers
December 28, 2015
I find it difficult to express just how much I liked this book—and even trickier to explain what it's about.

This is a very beautiful, very simple story.

When Keturah is lured into the woods by a hart, she finds herself lost and unable to find her way back to her medieval village, Tide-by-Rood. Just as things are beginning to look grim, Death appears—only he is in the shape of a man named Lord Death and Keturah has been able to see him all her life.

Keturah weaves an intriguing tale for Death, but refuses to tell him the ending unless he spares her life. He agrees to her bargain and gives her another day to live.

The writing was masterful. It had an enchanting, timeless quality and created a beautiful atmosphere. The dialogue was spot-on for the historical era and the descriptions of the village and villagers were lush and delightful.

The plot revolves around Keturah finding her true love and cleverly outwitting Death again and again. There are also subplots about her grandmother, coy maidenly friends, and the terror of a coming plague.

The story was layered, built up slowly, and was just so gorgeously written that I savored every one of Leavitt's words. It was a romance story, but I loved the way the story was written so much better than the actual romance.

I also loved Keturah as a narrator. She was charming, smart, and amusing. I especially liked the scenes where she was bantering with Death and he found himself unable to resist her.

A short but breathtaking fantasy that felt much like a classic fairytale.
Profile Image for Jessica.
Author 31 books5,634 followers
July 19, 2017
A lyrical, deceptively simple tale about a girl who barters with Death for her life and the lives of her loved ones. There are shades of Scherazade here, as Keturah catches Death's attention by beginning to spin a tale of true love that she will not finish unless he lets her go. I love this sort of fantasy, where elaborate world-building has been put aside in favor of beautiful writing and layered characters.
Profile Image for Althea Ann.
2,232 reviews1,016 followers
April 14, 2015
I chose to read this book after 'Rebekah' because in that story, Keturah is Abraham's concubine after he is widowed. But the Keturah in this book has no connection to the Biblical figure at all.

This book is a Gothic Folktale, relating in a very pure, fairytale style a story of a girl who follows an enchanted hart into the forest and meets with Lord Death. '1001 Nights'-style, she holds off the handsome and regal Death by telling him a story and withholding the ending, eliciting promises from him that she will be spared if she finds her true love. With a charm from the village witch, and now feared by her neighbors due to her connection to the uncanny, she desperately seeks both for love and to fend off the plague (that Death has prophesied) from her village.

Leavitt skillfully weaves together elements from many traditional tales with a good dose of originality and a smooth, enjoyable writing style. The only problem here is that I kept finding jarring inconsistencies in her portrayal of the life of the village - I think the book would have benefited from a closer adherence to the actualities of life in medieval England, since that is where it is ostensibly set. (If food is in such short supply, villagers would not be 'portly'; if lemons are worth their weight in gold, oranges would not be worthless; where did all the resources for a fair and town cleanup suddenly come from, etc, etc.)

Still, I loved the overall concept and aesthetic of the book, and would definitely read more from this author."
Profile Image for Sonya.
45 reviews
December 6, 2014
"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.” And yes, I was indeed carried away .

Keturah is beautiful and a great storyteller. One day, she got lost in the forest and met Lord Death. She bargained with Lord Death by telling him a story, a love story of a girl who hadn’t found her true love, yet without the ending. She promised to give the ending only if Lord Death kept her alive for another day. Lord Death was intrigued by her story and granted her a day to find her true love. Otherwise, she had no choice but to be the wife of Lord Death.

Not only Lord Death, but I am also mesmerized by Keturah’s story. I could hardly put it down and end up reading the whole story in one setting. I guessed who her true love was at the beginning, and I was right. However, the plot is not in the least predictable, I mean I can’t see how it gets to that.

For Keturah, she is adorable. She puts others’ interests before her owns. She is fearless to bargain with Lord Death. And I love all the side characters. Martine Leavitt tells the story with details, yet not overdone. There are brilliant twists to engage your interest.

Overall, this is an awesome story that will appeal to all fairy tales lovers.
Profile Image for gio.
1,019 reviews386 followers
March 11, 2015
“And so he did his endless work,' I continued quietly, 'without feeling, without pity, without rest, for to open his heart to these would be to open his heart to his loneliness and longing and that was beyond bearing.”

Read this one with Claudia (kind of, sort of, but still) :3

This was incredibly cute and heartwarming.
Keturah and Lord Death is a fairytale. You know, when your mom, or your dad, used to tuck you in at night and read you something to make you fall asleep? Keturah and Lord Death could have been that story.

I liked how the author managed to build a tale centered around themes like love and death, and there were some chapters or quotes that have much more meaning than what you'd expect from such a simple tale.

I know, such a short comment, but really I haven't got much to say. I'd recommend it to anyone who's looking for something cute but meaningful too.

P.s. Might be the first book Lys has recommended to me that didn't make me want to kill her because of the pain. XD
Profile Image for Liz.
600 reviews504 followers
November 16, 2014
"Undying," the eldest girl corrected. "And eternal.”

Keturah, a young girl, gets lost in the deep forest after following a legendary hart. Soon, she feels that Death is near and when he finally appears Keturah asks him for another chance. She desperately wants to live, so she captures the Lord Death with her story and promises to tell the end of it when they meet the next time. And the Death gives her one day. One day to find the true love and stay alive.
But the search for the true love is not as easy as it seems and Keturah meets Lord Death again and asks for more time and thanks to her story Lord Death agrees.
Relieved Keturah returns and continues her search but she feels that from now on Lord Death follows her...
"It is like every night when I fall asleep."
"No. It is like every morning when you wake up.”

Keturah is indeed a mesmerizing story-teller, she captures not only Lord Death but also the reader with her enchanting words. She is a fearless young girl and a selfless one, always ready to sacrifice herself for somebody else. More than just once she saves her beloved village from death and although she respects Lord Death she is brave enough ask him for more time. Keturah is intelligent and thoughtful, she always thinks before agreeing on something.
Keturah is a realistic character I absolutely love! She has so many qualities that the people of our time really need...

Lord Death is dark and sad. He is not always fair, indeed, but Death is never fair.
“If untimely death came only those who deserved that fate, Keturah, where would choice be? No one would do good for its own sake, but only to avoid an early demise. No one would speak out against evil because of his own courageous soul, but only to live another day. The right to choose is man's great gift, but one thing is not his to choose--the time and means of death.”

Yet, he is not heartless or merciless. He agrees on Keturah's deal and he perfectly understands her. To me, Lord Death seems very exhausted from his duty. I can really imagine Death being like this and therefore I feel sorry for him...
Keturah's grandmother is just like a grandmother should be. She is loving and wise and intelligent. John, is a typical young man who falls in love but who is refused. Indeed, he is strong and determined but in comparison to the mighty Death he is nothing but a weak and naive human being.
All the characters of this book are perfectly chosen. Their behaviour, their characteristics and dialogues fit perfectly to the progression of the plot, which is not very exciting or full of tension but smooth. The plot is like a slow and melancholic guitar melody, full of desire and sadness.
“It is life that hurts you not death.”

This book is like a very dark and someway very light fairy tale. It can teach very useful lessons and there is a very strong message in this book, another reason why I love it so much.
I love this book. From the first till the last word, everything in this book is enchanting and beautiful.
I would recommend it to everyone who loves fairy tales or gothic books.
Profile Image for Bekah.
745 reviews979 followers
September 11, 2017
i'm going to have to reread this because I thought i lOVED it????
Profile Image for Charlotte Kersten.
Author 3 books433 followers
December 19, 2022

“When he stands close to you, your life becomes a song, a praise.”

So What’s It About?

Martine Leavitt offers a spellbinding story, interweaving elements of classic fantasy and high romance in this National Book Award Finalist. Keturah follows a legendary hart into the king's forest, where she becomes hopelessly lost. Her strength diminishes until, finally, she realizes that death is near. Little does she know that he is a young, handsome lord, melancholy and stern. Renowned for her storytelling, Keturah is able to charm Lord Death with a story and thereby gain a reprieve but only for twenty-four hours. She must find her one true love within that time or all is lost. Keturah searches desperately while the village prepares for an unexpected visit from the king, and Keturah is thrust into a prominent role as mysterious happenings alarm her friends and neighbors. Lord Death's presence hovers over this all until Keturah confronts him one last time in the harrowing climax.

What I Thought

This will be a pretty short and sweet review. I read this book because I think that tragic, broody, mercurial death gods are hot and the death god in this book was pretty hot, tragic, broody and mercurial. So I got what I came for in that regard, 10/10 would recommend, but the rest of the story feels like something of a mixed bag.

Keturah’s friendships are really sweet and cute and I like that all of her friends and fellow townsfolk get happy endings. The writing is graceful and there are plenty of charming details, especially about food and the village fair and the townspeople’s lives. I also like the fundamental idea that death makes life more beautiful and meaningful.

That being said, nothing about the plague section of the plot makes sense to me. I don’t know why renovating the town and building better roads is supposed to keep them from getting infected, and it’s unclear why the king is so confused and surprised to see plague-ravaged lands while traveling to the village for their festival - why wouldn’t he know about it already? And the king traveling for the festival doesn’t actually make much sense either - Death warns that the villagers need to stay away from High Town people, but then they invite the king to their fair and everything is fine. When plague does come to the village, Death makes it disappear magically, which speaks to the overall problem that Lord Death is a pushover who will change people’s fates just because he wants to sleep with Keturah. It cheapens his power and integrity, I think, as well as the overall impact of the story and its stakes.

I also think that the ending is a terrible misstep. Keturah is in something of a love triangle between her lord’s son and Lord Death by the end of the book, and I was 100% sure that it was going to conclude with her marrying the lord’s son and looking forward to a full, rich life - and then, once she died, she would be reunited with Lord Death. Instead of this, Keturah just says “hm, life doesn’t really seem that fulfilling to me anymore so I’m just going to die and then spend eternity as Lord Death’s consort. Okay, bye!” Beyond the hand wringing requisite because this YA book's happy ending is that a teenage girl commits suicide to be with her love interest, it also feels like poor writing because it’s such a massive decision that has very little build-up or support in Keturah’s characterization throughout the story. Also it’s just lame in comparison to my proposed ending (which, to be fair, is shamelessly inspired by The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley, who has been too cool for school for decades now). Well, I said this review was going to be short, but I’ve complained quite a lot now. At least Lord Death brings the vibes.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Suzannah.
Author 27 books474 followers
February 2, 2016
I got suddenly excited about two pages into this book, because our spunky yet period-appropriate heroine meets Death in the woods, and he's riding a horse, and all of a sudden it clicked into place in my mind that HEY HEY THIS IS DEATH, HE'S RIDING A HORSE, THERE'S PLAGUE, THIS IS TOTALLY A FOURTEENTH-CENTURY ARTISTIC MOTIF.


But of course, we aren't going to be too historically accurate. It cannot be denied. This IS a YA romance novel, after all. Keturah's Death is not a grinning famine victim wrapped in a winding-sheet carrying a whacking big sword. Instead, he's a cute, but angsty guy with actually a really sweet personality.

Me, I just can't help thinking how much more challenging and awesome this story would have been if Leavitt had stuck with the real medieval Death. Oh well.

She isn't trying to write a historically accurate novel here. The story is set in Angleland, a thinly-veiled vaguely medieval/renaissance analogue of England. That said, I was pleasantly surprised how in some ways, the book was more historically accurate than some straight historical novels I've read. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the character of the book's narrator, who is independent and sassy but who wants to get married and keep house and have children.

The religion depicted in the setting of the book seems vaguely Christian (there are parsons, churches, God, and a character crosses himself) but has nothing to do with the book's deepest messages. For example, in the second chapter, Keturah asks her grandmother if there's anyone stronger than Death.


"Yes," says the grandmother. "One."


"Who?" Keturah asks.


"Life," says the grandmother.

Yeah. That seems a fairly period appropriate response.

If we're talking about some twentieth-century circle-of-life feel-good-ism.

I tried, I really did, to find an interpretation of the symbolism in this book that I could agree with and appreciate. I came close, when Keturah describes how the knowledge of death's closeness has taught her to love life. That seemed almost like something GK Chesterton would say. But in the end, the story ends on this moral: that "there is no hell...Each man, when he dies, sees the landscape of his own soul" and that Death "is the end of all true stories". The death-and-resurrection motif of Christian myth is subverted: Death is not like falling asleep, it's like "waking up". The end of it is that in this book, death is the happy ending.

Which is exactly the thing that has always prevented me liking the fairytales of Hans Christian Anderson.

I can understand why this particular theme would be compelling. Death can only be faced with hope in one of two ways. One way is to see it as the Dark River, the Last Enemy, something that will be defeated and undone in a glorious resurrection. The other way is to comfort oneself: Death is not terrible. He's kinda cute once you get to know him. You never really begin to live until you've died.

All those who hate Me love death. I kept resisting trying to apply this verse to this book because it just seemed so simplistic. Surely there's some nuance here, right? Well, you know? Not really. This is a book trying to find comfort in a love of Death. That's what comes of blinding yourself to the Firstborn-from-the-Dead.

Philosophical questions aside, this was really a beautifully-written book, one of those simple stories written with engaging charm and unobtrusive skill. It did a particularly good job of giving us a lovable cast of supporting characters, fleshing them all out with a glorious economy of words. Artistically, this book is sound as a nut.

EDIT: Turns out Leavitt is in fact a Mormon. I don't know enough about Mormon theology to comment on how that informs this book's message, so can only continue to say that the book's theme seemed far from redemptive to me (in the same way that Hans Christian Anderson, though obviously deeply spiritually minded in some sense, does not seem to me to have written particularly redemptive stories). The kind reader may have a better perspective :)
Profile Image for Mela.
1,468 reviews185 followers
November 11, 2022
A jewel. A perfect fairy-tale.

What makes it perfect?

Let's start from the name: Keturah. I don't know why but I think it is beautiful. I don't know many names which I find so... amazing and almost "not from this world".

Next, the character of Lord Death - what a great idea and how ideal used.

A love story: marvelous, deep. When you truly love?

You find that when he speaks, the most ordinary words become poetry. When he stands close to you, your life becomes a song, a praise. When he touches you, your smallest talents become gold; the most ordinary love breaks your heart with their beauty.

The atmosphere of the fairy-tale. Martine Leavitt wrote like she would have been making a tapestry, like she would have been singing us this story.

And first of all, there is so big wisdom, a deep understanding of life and death, of human being. It isn't Disney story. It is something which takes your heart and breath, which tells you things you haven't thought earlier. It is a surprise what a simple fairy-tale can makes you.

The plot isn't much complicated (someone could say it is very predictable and typical in many events) but it is a book which is hard to forget about, even if you try. Because how to forget the words like:

We hid in our hovels, pretending the forest was not all around us, though it sang while the ax gnawed at its edges.

“They think my realm is far away. Would they sleep at night if they knew how close I was? Would they sing so roundly by the fire if they knew I was waiting in their cold beds? Would they be so glad of the harvest if they knew I rested in their root cellar? It is not I who am the coward.”

If untimely death came only to those who deserved that fate, Keturah, where would choice be? No one would do good for its own sake, but only to avoid an early demise. No one would speak out against evil because of his own courageous soul, but only to live another day. The right to choose is man’s great gift, but one thing is not his to choose—the time and means of death.

“There is no hell, John Temsland. Each man, when he dies, sees the landscape of his own soul.”
Profile Image for Eni.
448 reviews
September 12, 2016
I really enjoyed reading this book.
If you think about it this book was very creepy and weird,but surprisingly also a very beautiful story.
Profile Image for The Girl with the Sagittarius Tattoo.
2,132 reviews267 followers
October 29, 2022
This was fine; a folktale set in medieval England. I've had this one in my TBR for so long, and I'm glad I finally got to it.

A sixteen-year-old girl gets lost in the woods, and when Death comes to claim her, she starts to tell him a story. When he asks for the ending, she says she will give it to him tomorrow, in exchange for one more day to say goodbye to those she loves in her village. He agrees, but she fights her fate by not coming back to him as agreed. In her stolen days, she learns many lessons - what it is to love; the meaning of sacrifice; and that Death isn't something to always fear, but rather a welcome friend at the end of a long life, or relief from pain and illness.
Profile Image for summer.
248 reviews299 followers
October 1, 2014
A very heartwarming tale with writing reminiscent of your favorite fairy tales. Keturah and Lord Death managed to steal a few tears from me despite its relatively unconventional structure and spellbind me with the way love and death were handled. The characters, aside from Death, were unremarkable--but the atmosphere and tone set by the sophisticated prose made up for them.

I was torn between 3.5 and 4 stars, but now I realize that this short, simple story was utterly unique in ways that I am not used to. The author's originality should be enough to justify a solid four-star rating.

(ALSO: What was with Keturah? The girl has absolutely no sense of neither self-preservation nor hurriedness. If your life is about to end, do you spend it going about your daily routine, acting as if there is no rush? Seriously, at times I wanted to smack here to make her hurry the hell up.)
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