The Dungeon by Lynne Reid Banks


The Dungeon by Lynne Reid Banks

A medieval tragedy and tale of retribution - The Dungeon is a powerful story from a writer of great skill and potency. The setting is medieval Scotland, a land dominated by skirmishes and battles on the borders, a land of fortresses and castles in Scotland, England and Wales. We meet Bruce McLennan, a Scottish laird, a man sorely-changed by a terrible family tragedy. He is a domineering master, an uncaring landlord, a cruel man, who has his heart set on building himself a castle and a Dungeon in which to punish his enemies in the future. But while the dungeon is being built, McLennan plans a trip to the far ends of the earth. As we follow McLennan on his travels to China and beyond, we witness his buying of Peony, or Mudan, as her Chinese name is, a young girl who McLennan uses as a slave. He is uncaring, unsympathetic, as he drags her after him across the world. Gradually, knowing no other, Peony develops a kind of affection for her master. In Scotland, Peony meets Fin, a stable lad and a loving friendship develops between them. McLennan, busy fighting off enemies, uses Peony in an horrific scene in one of his battles; he looses badly and subsequently blames her. He decides to punish her by throwing her in his dungeon...then unfolds a ghastly scene where Peony kills herself, at last in control of her own destiny. McLennan dies of guilt, shame and remorse. Fin lives on, and even Peony, perhaps, in his new baby sister.


Set in mediaeval Scotland and China, this gripping novel is both swashbuckling adventure story and moral fable. Against a backdrop of tribal feuding, Lynne Reid Banks explores the themes of friendship, forgiveness and revenge. Bruce McLennan is a rich laird whose family have been slaughtered by rival Archibald McInnes. Bereft, McLennan journeys to China to forget his grief. During his adventures, McLennan buys a young girl, Peony, to be his slave. Peony and McLennan eventually return to Scotland where he builds a grand new castle and dungeon and sets about avenging his family's deaths. His bitterness is set against the friendship which blooms between Peony and Fin McLean, the stable lad. The central characters are strong and well rounded. Banks is quick to show the motives behind extreme behaviour: she fully accounts for McLennan's cruelty and Peony's blind devotion. The relationships between characters are beautifully observed, particularly McLennan's begrudging love for Peony, and Peony's bewilderment at Fin's affection. The plot is pacey and original. Banks establishes McLennan's thirst for revenge from the start then takes us on a whistle-stop tour of the mediaeval Silk Route. The second half of the novel focuses on feudal in-fighting and McLennan's cruel treatment of Peony. Banks balances the bloodshed and fighting with moving emotional scenes in which the characters become more reflective. Banks is skilled at showing the world afresh through the eyes of an outsider: she gives life to worlds which might otherwise seem distant to the modern young reader. McLennan's awe in China is matched only by Peony's sense of wonderment in Scotland. The reader is encouraged to discover these settings along with the characters. This is an exciting and sensitive novel. Banks invites her readers to engage fully with the characters and so delivers her moral message unobtrusively. Ages 12+ (Kirkus UK)

About the Author

Lynne Reid Banks

Lynne Reid Banks is a best-selling author for children and adults. Her classic children's novel, The Indian in the Cupboard, has sold over ten million copies worldwide and was made into a highly successful feature film.

She was born in London in 1929 and was an actress in the early 1950's; later she became one of the first women TV news reporters in Britain. Lynne has now written forty books; her first, The L-Shaped Room, was published in 1960. She lives with her husband in Dorset, England.

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Book Info


224 pages
Interest Age: From 10


Lynne Reid Banks
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Publication date

3rd November 2003



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