How the Hangman Lost His Heart
by K. M. Grant
Review by Mel Jacob
Walker Books for Young Readers Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780802796721
Date: 18 September 2007 List Price $16.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
In her latest young adult novel, How the Hangman Lost His heart, Katie Grant offers a tongue-in-cheek, rollicking romp through 18th Century London as she follows the adventures of teen-age Alice Towneley, niece of the traitor Colonel Towneley. Alice sneaks out to witness her beloved uncle Frank's execution for supporting Bonnie Prince Charlie in the Jacobite rebellion against George II, King of England. For these actions, the King condemns Colonel Towneley, to hanging followed by drawing and quartering with the traitor's severed head to be mounted on the Temple Bar as a warning to others.
Determined to bury her uncle with his head, Alice tries to recover his head from high atop Temple Bar. While she succeeds in dismounting it, escaping with it presents an even greater challenge. Thus begins Alice's adventures and a long odyssey to reunite Uncle Frank's head and his body. Two men become her allies in the process, Dan Skinslicer, the hangman, and Hew Ffrench, a captain in the guards. Nasty Major Slavering, Hew's superior, hounds the trio in his quest to return the traitor's head to display on Temple Bar
The gore of drawing and quartering and a severed head should satisfy the most blood-thirty pre-teen. The eccentric characters and non-stop action draw the reader into the adventures of Alice and Dan Skinslicer.
Grant manages to hold the reader's interest and at the same time to explore serious issues about different forms of love and relationships. While history provides a setting, some readers may question the accuracy of the characters actions and reactions, but the rapid pacing pulls the intended audience along. Humor and misadventure enlivens the tale. The severed head that gave rise to Grant's story belongs to her ancestor.
She also wrote the successful and acclaimed De Granville Trilogy: Blood Red Horse, Green Jasper, and Blaze of Silver.