Parents' Guide to

The Kingdom of Little Wounds

By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Brutal, breathtaking historical epic is graphic but great.

Book Susann Cokal Fantasy 2014
The Kingdom of Little Wounds Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this book.

Community Reviews

age 16+

Based on 3 parent reviews

age 16+

Recommended for Mature Readers with a Strong Stomach

In this historical fantasy novel that the author herself describes as a “fairy tale about syphilis,” the reader is treated to a sickeningly realized portrait of court life in 16th century Scandinavia. Led by a pair of well-meaning but impressionable royals, the court is a place of madness and filth where courtiers and servants alike struggle for power. At the center of this quagmire is Ava Bingen, a disgraced seamstress, and Midi Sorte, a mute African slave who nurses the royal children through their many illnesses. Thrust together by circumstance, the two girls initially dislike each other: Midi is naturally mistrustful, while Ava is open and friendly. However, when conditions at court worsen in the wake of royal discord, the two realize how much they need each other if they want to make it out of the kingdom of Skyggehavn alive. Little Wounds is a difficult book to review. Some readers have found its content to be grossly inappropriate for teens, even for the very mature ones. However, I think we shouldn’t ask “Is it appropriate?” so much as: “Will they actually be able to finish it?” You see, while Little Wounds is a beautifully written tribute to the old style of fairy tales (such as the story of the murderous Bluebeard and his decapitated former wives), I doubt its grotesque beauty and morbid sense of justice will be universally appreciated. One can only tolerate so many passages of rape, syphilis-induced madness, and bizarre 16th century medical treatments before the more sensitive of us will cry, “Enough!” and go read something else. That aside, I’d still recommend it, but only for the adventurous, and for certain brave readers ages 16-Up.
age 18+

Vile but likely real to the times

I could only tolerate reading the first 120 pages. The book has graphic depictions of sex and sex acts usually non-consensual. The pages are riddled with them seems about one encounter every 10 pages. To me it seems as though this book has been miss categorized and should not be a YA book mainly because of the CONSTANT non consensual sex acts that happened repeatedly and the graphic descriptions of disease. I also found the book rather boring. I do feel that this is a fairly accurate presentation of what would be a kingdom of that time, especially for women and especially for those without money or power. There was a passage where fir political reasons doctors were charged with determining the virginity of the King's Daughter Sophia right after her death. The doctor didn't care so much about the truth of the matter so much as he cared to give the "right answer" and to proclaim the outcome that would please theKing. Likewise, determining the cause of Sophias death also relied heavily on pleasuring the king and very little on fact which rings true to the times. The author used diverse vocabulary that help communicate the times and culture of the story.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (3 ):
Kids say (1 ):

Like GoT, Cokal's excellent epic, multiple points-of-view novel isn't easy to read. Court intrigue, duplicitous royal advisers, high-born rapists, and servants who keep and trade sex and secrets to secure their livelihoods -- it sounds more like an episode of Game of Thrones than a young adult novel. It's deep and dark and doesn't shy away from squirm-worthy topics like bodily fluids, sexually transmitted diseases, childbirth, child brides (by our standards), and unthinkable medieval violence, prejudice, and social practices.

Ava Bingen and Midi Sorte are clever and strong-willed characters who are wary of each other but eventually realize they must work together given their circumstances in the Lunedie court. They have to do unsavory and unethical things to survive, but they're still the most sympathetic characters in the story -- with the possible exception of the youngest of the disease-stricken Lunedie children. There are characters so hateful you'll cheer at their demise, but no one is completely blameless. In Cokal's medieval universe, as in real life, everyone is a shade of gray and happily ever afters are rare; the best anyone can hope for, whether titled or the lowest of born, is a sense of freedom, agency, and fulfillment.

Book Details

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