Christian Davies: Mother of Dragoons

Character: Christian Cavenaugh/Welsh/Jones/Davies

Text: The Life and Adventures of Mrs. Christian Davies (which is an abridged title!)

I have the novel ‘Kit’, based on – or rather inspired by – the life of Christian Davies, to thank for leading me to this text. I actually didn’t much like the novel, as it was actually a pretty boring and placid, and primarily fictional, account of this woman’s life, venturing through a kind of mundane romance with Captain Ross, then some odd tangent about being a spy. The character in the novel was underpinned by some ill-fitting kind of forced virtue, which was off-putting, considering she did plenty of dishonourable or deceitful things. I assume this was probably the reason the author didn’t think having someone so brassy could attract someone like Captain Ross, though the real woman had no problem finding men to flock around her. She had also had at least ten years stripped from her age, for no apparent reason other than youth perhaps adds the possibility of naivety, and so fitted the model better. If the character in ‘Kit’ had not been based on a real-life woman, perhaps I wouldn’t have withdrawn my sympathy for the story. Perhaps, but not a guarantee. Unfortunately, when there is ample basis for a complex, though not constantly tasteful, and infinitely more interesting character, which is not undertaken when writing about them, I think it devalues, in this case, the adventure and any struggles within it.

I and four of my companions, were rolling ourselves down a hill, and turning heels over head, when the earl of C–d was passing by in his coach…: but finding we put an end to our pastime on our perceiving him (for the youngest of us was seventeen and consequently had sense enough to think that showing our naked tails not over-decent) he called to us, and promising to give us a crown apiece if we would begin and pursue our diversion…

moterrossSo. Christian Davies. What a gal. Not content with being a hardcore Irishwoman – who, after a top education wants instead to work the land because it’s more interesting – owning a bar and having three kids and a hot husband, she adds fighting in the British Army and gallivanting across Europe to her list of things to do before she dies.

Alright, not exactly the way it happened. Her hot husband gets plastered while running some errands and wanders off with some friends, finding himself in Irish troops of the British Army the next day (who has that not happened to, amirite?), and Kit, pretty distraught, decides to head off after him, as you do.

Thing is, Kit happens to be pretty damn good at being a soldier – and apparently damn hot, earning the nickname the Pretty Dragoon – and gets right into all the looting and flirting and duels and accidental fatherhood that many soldiers experienced. Seriously, she actually got accused of fathering a baby by some woman off-her-rocker, and so not to expose her femininity while she still hadn’t found her husband, complied, and treated it as her own! The baby didn’t live long it seems, and so she was released from that astonishing prospect.

When she does eventually find her husband, she proper scolds him for not only being in a relationship with another woman, but having caused her to leave her family and children behind to come and find him. She tells him he has to keep schtum about her being there, forcing him to pretend she was his brother, as she was enjoying herself too much. So they live army life together but separate for a while, continuing the fight with the dragoons. It wasn’t without its difficulties, like his running off to his mistress once in a while:

I was informed by a neighbour that he was at such an alehouse with his mistress. This news, setting me aflame, I ran directly thither… My rage was so great, that I struck at her with a case-knife I had undesignedly brought out in my hand, and cut her nose off close to the face…

What is amazing about this story is that, when she is discovered after being shot, not only do the troops accept Kit as a woman, she is fully complimented as being the best man they had, having earned her stripes, as it were, on the battlefield. She also gets to remarry Richard Welsh, and lotsa money and kisses and a new dress from her mates. And far from being sidelined due to boobs, she can’t help but get involved in stupid things like shooting up the enemy and carrying pots of broth across battlefields to feed her husband.  Obviously, the boys aren’t surprised at this woman turning up in the midst of some stake-outs.  She, too, doesn’t stray away from getting her revenge on arrogant little whelps, who slight her character by taking objection to her freedoms with the army, by seducing their ladies behind their backs.

You see, said I, what it is to affront me ; for I have made but two visits to your mistress, and in them have made such a progress, that you have been twice refused entrance.


It’s interesting that her nickname, Mother Ross, is based on little more than the said Captain Ross finding grief in her grief after she finds her husband dead after battle – and after overturning 200 bodies. There is no question of a fling or anything like that. Christian married Hugh Jones, a soldier, eleven weeks after her husband’s death. He died the next year. Then once she returned home she married another soldier. She also met Queen Anne who gave her a massive amount of money and a pension for life. Technically, she became the first female Chelsea Pensioner, and was interred after her death in the Royal Hospital Chelsea cemetery.

It’s fair to say Kit is one of the most fun and brassy women in non-fiction. Her story is far from clean, and the anecdotes of her life are by far the best parts of the book. I say that because there is a lot of detail of the battle arenas and the politics going on, and so if you aren’t much into warfare these might require skipping. But don’t skip too speedily, as some of the best bits, like the officer taking a particular fancy to a mare, come in between the fights as asides.

The language he had given me was provocation sufficient to inflame me ; but a blow was an indignity never before put upon me, and enraged me to such a degree, that not considering I had the child in one arm, I flew upon him, and began to be labour him with my right fist.

For no feasible reason this text is sometimes attributed to Daniel Defoe. The Dictionary of National Biography 1885 had an entry for Christian Davies, which is a cute and brief read, and also questioned this assumption. The text of this book is available entirely for free online at loads of locations, but you can also click the image above and buy it in expensive paperback if you want…



Ada Lovelace: Bride of Science

Seriously, this is what she called herself.

In honour of Ada Lovelace Day – awarded nowadays with being the first computer programmer, but also daughter of the famed Lord Byron – I’m posting a picture of the brainy lady herself, and also an excerpt of a letter from Ada to Michael Faraday (my hero). Faraday and Lovelace had a brief friendship, not least because she died within a very short time of their meeting, though he was far older than she.One of my favourite openers of a letter he wrote to her, on 10th June 1851, was:

One of my favourite openers of a letter he wrote to her, on 10th June 1851, was:

“You see what you do – ever as you like with me. You say write & I write – and I wish I had strength & head rest enough for a great deal more for it would give me very great pleasure to move more earnestly for those young creatures whom I rejoiced to know as your children.”


1815 – 1852


Dear Mr Faraday,

I am exceedingly tickled with your comparison of yourself to a tortoise. It has excited all my fun (& I assure you I have no little of that in me).

I am also struck with the forcible truth of your designation of my character of mind:

“elasticity of intellect”.

It is indeed the very truth, most happily put into language.

You have excited in my mind a ridiculous, but not ungraceful, allegorical picture, viz:

that of a quiet demure plodding tortoise, with a beautiful fairy gambolling round it in a thousand radiant & varying hues; the tortoise crying out, “Fairy, fairy, I am not like you. I cannot at pleasure assume a thousand aerial shapes & expand myself over the face of the universe. Fairy, fairy, have mercy on me, & remember I am but a tortoise”.

Please go and have a look at the FindingAda blog where you can view more letters fully scanned (if you can read the swirly lettering!). Her personality leaps from the page and she must have been a whirlwind of vivacity not just for the ageing Faraday (who was, by the way, still rather attractive in his fifties) but for everyone who met her.

Ada has also been committed to comic format – along with naughty Charles Babbage – and so I can also count her as a genuine lady of literature.

Penny White: More Whiskey, Vicar?



Character: Penny White

Text: The Temptation of Dragons (Penny White) by Chrys Cymri

‘Vicar arrested for drunk driving’ is not the  sort of headline my bishop wants to read about his priests.

Penny White. Church of England Vicar. Fantasy and science fiction fan. Whiskey drinker. Life sounds good, eh? But Penny is also a widow, living alone with the memory of her late husband, and that hole in her life made bigger by the absence of her much younger brother, who she brought up herself after their parents death, plus the general weight of her calling. So she escapes with the made-up worlds of Joss Whedon or in splashes of Doctor Who, and just gets on with it. Problem is, she’s just given the last rites to a dragon on the side of a main road, and she has no idea what the hell is going on. She needs a drink.

Penny-White-and-the-Temptation-of-Dragons 2Her bishop, Nigel, explains all about this mystical otherworld and its connections to our own, and subsequently asks her if she’d like to interview for the position of Vicar General of Incursions, a sort of conduit between this world and the alternate of Lloegyr, inhabited by all manner of amazing creatures including most fantasy fan’s weakness: dragons. Obviously she’s going to say yes. But how deep does the rabbit hole go? Well, probably about as far as getting an associate who’s a sarcastic gryphon, partial himself to a drink now and again and holding some secrets of his own, then meeting dragon bishops, and dragon tacsis (did I mention they all speak Welsh in Lloegyr?), and vampires, and harpies in pubs, and snail sharks the size of labradors. And then her little brother turns up, fresh from New Zealand, ready to sponge off her again and get himself into some uber trouble. Penny White’s life? Yeah, never going to be the same.

‘It says “willies!” one girl was shouting excitedly. ‘Pack your “willies!”

‘Stupid autocorrect,’ I muttered. ‘Wellies. Bring your wellies because we’re going on a walk tomorrow.’

What’s great about Penny is that we’re shown a really normal person who drinks, binges on TV shows, is quite the workaholic, and is so very connected to humanity, its brightest gains and greatest losses, in a way most people are not. She’s not just dealing with her own life and her brother’s rather whimsical view of responsibility, but the trials and tribulations of her parish; births, marriages and deaths are all part of the package on a daily basis, raising church funds, increasing the congregation. Then with Lloegyr she’s introduced to something that would possibly throw any other person off the rails: fantasy come true. A means of escape. Another calling from God. She’s thrown into world which challenges so many perceptions in her own religion, and her colleagues and superiors, and must balance what she feels is right while trying to keep in line with the regulations of the church. It takes a complex character to handle morality of the self and of the belief system ones holds, especially when challenged with really far out experiences, and it’s fascinating seeing the struggle for a character based in a real world organisation like the CofE coping with relevance and sheer human ignorance from every angle, and then having bleedin’ dragon lore to get a hang of. Blimey!

‘Oh for a sonic screwdriver, I thought. Then I remembered that the sonic screwdriver didn’t work on wood. Once again I wondered whether this were actually reasonable, or simply a convenient plot device by the writers.’

Penny is strong, and not in that sword-wielding kind of way whilst handling the highs of fantasy battles and what-not (not that it might not be in her future, of course), but emotionally iron-clad, allowing herself to be the human buffer for everyone around her. But she’s a little too iron-clad for her health, as she cannot face her own burdens head-on. Under all that armour is a woman vying for some closure, but the armour is working both ways and keeping her from asking for help, for answers, as everyone else’s needs pile up. Penny’s walks a long road, through pain and loss, but she perseveres, she works towards what she thinks is right, and she risks herself for those she loves, bringing the family she didn’t realise she had together, and solving a disturbing crime in the process. With dragons.

‘Penny, if you want it to be anonymous you need to cut out the references to Doctor Who and whiskey.’


Read Chrys Cymri’s Author Spotlight interview!

Read my book review!

Princess Fianna: An Onion Knight

Character: Princess Fianna

Text: The Dragon Throne & The Unicorn Throne (Four Kingdoms Trilogy) 

‘A ruler is no better or worse than those he rules.’

DT72dpi-1500x2000Fianna is going to be queen, keeper of the Dragon Throne. That’s what she’s been brought up to expect for her entire eleven years, and only through sheer luck was there no son born to her parents to supersede that right. But as a royal princess, confident of herself and somewhat insular in her opinions, Fianna must also learn humility and the bond of knightly code, to understand the people she will rule over and who will offer her protection. But tragedy strikes in the form of Lady Marissa, whose relationship with her father blooms behind Fianna’s back and incites the girl to stand up to him. This marriage is a threat to her right to rule if it bears a son, and also a dishonour to her mother who died but a year before. Fianna will not stand by and see that woman in her mother’s place and a baby boy in her own, so she abandons the kingdom.

The marriage is the catalyst of Fianna’s suppressed anger and frustration throughout her story. She believes herself to be cruelly and callously ejected from her birthright and is haunted by this throughout most of the series. Her own aunt, bitter and deceitful, tries to manipulate her. The young pig farmer Fianna meets offers her a pure and simple friendship, then love. The royal colonel, Pealla, gives support as a kind of surrogate mother for Fianna’s necessary growth into womanhood and knighthood, taking her on as squire. Fianna is moulded by not only her own beliefs and strengths, but by the others around her, be they good or bad voices, and she is on a rollercoaster of imbalance, relying on the strength of her already courageous stomach to guide her way.

“The Prancer stepped back and studied her for a moment. Then, with a gleam in his eye, he said, ‘All unicorns know the Land. Few humans do. But no unicorn knows how to brew ale.’

‘I’m glad humans have some use.’

‘Only those who can brew ale.”

When she meets the Prancer – a unicorn whose own mother died and unicorn twhose father is the leader of their herd – is when her life is turned upside down, and her natural loyalties (dragons, not unicorns) are shredded and challenged in equal measure. Some of the sweetest and most endearing moments – not to mention some of the funniest – of Fianna’s journey are the ones with the Prancer, and they’re the ones that convince the reader she is the right one for the job, it’s only herself holding her back.

Fianna is a brilliant onion of a character. You could easily despise her entitlement, extreme stubbornness and refusal to see reason, but absolutely understand how these things have come to be in her life, how much of a diamond in the rough she is and why she makes the choices she does. She acts from the good of her heart, and though her flaws sometimes override the good she accomplishes, you know she has that spark in her, you know she understands morality, and all she needs is that push to find the true greatness her potential hints at. You see her lose her way time and time again, but it makes her recovery all the more poignant.

‘I learned tonight that there are many things more important than pride. I’ve also learned that we can never assume that there will be time, enough time. That which must be said, that which must be done, cannot be allowed to wait for a right moment. That moment might never come.’

Read the Author Spotlight interview with indie author Chrys Cymri!

Art Showcase – Avatar Korra: The Legend

TV Spotlight Character – Avatar Korra

Show: The Legend of Korra – Book 1: Air (c) by Nickelodeon

(all characters belong to Nickelodeon)

For our first Art Showcase let me introduce you to Black-pantheress who digitally penned our Korra (twice!) below- visit her DeviantArt page for more amazing work!


So, I love this show. I started it recently, and it’s almost impossible to turn off. It hits pretty much every spot in terms of fantasy and character, and has some of the most badass women in it ever. This is a post for Korra, but if you decide to watch it keep an eye on Lin Beifong and Asami Sato (who starts out cliché, subsequently swiping that aside).

Anyway, Korra. In Book 1: Air, she’s seventeen, has been known as the Avatar for almost her entire life, and is a reincarnation of the previous Avatar Aang (from The Last Airbender). She must master all four elements – which is called ‘bending’ and looks like the above amazeballs pic – to bring balance to the world. Problem is, Korra’s only mastered three abilities – her native tribe’s water (she’s from the Southern Water Tribe near the South Pole), and fire & earth. With the oncoming visit of Tenzin, the last Airbender mentor in the world and son of Aang (though his children are also airbenders) she’s excited for the chance to complete the set. But Tenzin has to go back to the city to quell some disputes and can’t stay in the south. So Korra, determined to master her destiny, heads off in pursuit on her polar bear-dog without his knowledge. Yep. Polar bear-dog.

Mako: You’re the Avatar. And I’m an idiot.

Korra: Both true.

The animators never shy away from making sure she has all the humour and silliness of expression in a girl her age. They also dress her appropriately; no weird, skimpy bikini things that fall off as soon as someone breathes, but actual clothes. I know, right? They put her in situations that girls who are determined to be ‘cool’ would never venture into, get her messed up and muddied and bloodied (as far as a family friendly animation can). She’s impatient and passionate, excitable and enthusiastic, but she has a sharpness when necessary and makes plenty of teenage mistakes, still learning about who she is in a new culture. In her friendships she is fiercely loyal and brave, and the romantic relationship in Book 1 is stubborn and entirely sweet.

Jinora: Ooh! I just read a historical saga where the heroine fell in love with the enemy general’s son, who was supposed to marry the princess. You should do what she did!

Korra: Tell me!

Jinora: She rode a dragon into battle and burned down the entire country. Then she jumped into a volcano. It was so romantic.

Ikki: No, no, no! The best way to win a boy’s heart is to brew a magic potion out of rainbows and sunsets, that makes two lovers sprout wings and fly to a magical castle in the sky, where they get married and eat clouds with spoons and use stars as ice cubes in their moonlight punch, forever and ever and ever!

Korra: The volcano is starting to make more sense to me now.dddd

Incredibly complex for an animated character, Korra is utterly compelling and instantly likeable. She’s a good person, and she surrounds herself with good people, which is a strong quality of the show.

Sure it’s animation, sure it’s family friendly, but it doesn’t retract from the fact it knows what’s a good message and what isn’t. It knows how to represent people from all walks of life, cultures and ethnicities and finds a way to expose the good in most of them (obvs. some are baddies…), and in this Korra is far away from the churned out rubbish that lazily attempts to represent female characters, or, any characters at all who are meant to be realistic.

One of the most important aspects for me is that sex and/or gender is never used as subjugation. Never does someone tell Korra she, or anyone else for that matter, can’t do something because of her age, sex, gender or colour or any other invented barrier. It is accepted as fact she can, and for me that is one of the most enjoyable aspects of stories like this, and incredibly important for the younger generations watching. Plus she’d probably tell them where to stick it. She might be animated, but I would go with what this series teaches over much else I see in the world or on the box.

Tenzen: “Please Korra, look at Menzen. He’s able to meditate peacefully.”

Korra: “Actually, I think he’s asleep.”


Don’t forget to visit Black-pantheress at DeviantArt, for lending us these stunning digital artworks!

Constance Lindon: Stud Whisperer

Character: Constance Lindon

Text: The Marquess’ Masquerade (Dastardly Lords #2) by Daphne du Bois



Self-portrait by Marie-Denise Villers.

Miss Constance Lindon, like all other well-bred young ladies, is eager for her first Season. But not to wear pretty clothes and prance around trying to rise in Society and find a husband before becoming an old maid. She is far more interested in having her artwork displayed at the Royal Academy at the next exhibition; her biggest dream and everything she yearns for. But her plan is scuppered when the Royal Academy decides that the dastardly lord of the novel, Athelcroft, is given her space in the gallery. Unfortunately she is little credited for her talent, being female as she is, and not of the temperament to be painting seductresses as Athelcroft does. Con is much too well-mannered and high-born to lower herself to such lusty displays in her artwork.

“Lord Athelcroft’s work will draw a much bigger crowd than the idyllic landscapes and baskets of kittens at which young lady artists so often excel” … Con had never painted a basket of kittens in her life, but she doubted very much that pointing that out would do her any good.

So annoyed she is it drives her to something verging on scandalous; she visits Athelcroft, a renowned rake, at his home, unaccompanied.

Now, Constance is known to her friends and family as a very quiet, straight as an arrow, risk-free kind of girl. She is. And she spends most of her time painting, not doing annoying things that society tells her she must (like shopping for bonnets, this is tiresome). She prefers the quiet, away from the bustle of business that doesn’t include invoking creativity – so the pure audacity to visit a man she has never met, with a reputation such as his, is uncompromisingly dangerous for her reputation. But she will get that space back. She is also much too strong-willed to allow someone – even the renowned Lord Athelcroft – to take away what could very well give her the future she is striving for. To be a professional artist. To own a gallery. Nothing else would complete her.

When she enters Athelcroft’s house, alone, she is introduced to a man who is renowned for his rakish behaviour, and senses something in his presence she hasn’t before, but nothing puts her off. She will have her spot in the RA exhibition no matter what. Not even his preposterous proposal that they fake a romance and engagement for the Season to get his mother off his back. Disinterested in anything but her artwork, least of all looking for a husband, the plan, though absurd, seems simple enough. As it goes, the cunning and devilry of his plan sparks a previously undisturbed desire to have a little fun. She is even talked into a joint venture with him:

 “If you mean I must sit for you, I know too well-“

“I do not. It would be a waste of your talent. I mean for you to paint with me. A collaboration to be unveiled in a month, when the exhibition formally opens. A single painting to out-do all the others. Light and Dark, Purity and Corruption, rendered in oils.”

Note there that little compliment he ushered into the conversation? Yep.

Sweet but kinda sexy, and properly flaunting the bling: Elena Aleksandrovna Naryshkina portrait by Vladimir Lukich Borovikovsky (1799)

What is wonderful about the story of Constance is that she never loses touch of what she wants. She doesn’t give up painting and dash off into the sunset as a silent wife the very moment there is a sniff of wedding bells (nor would the hero of this story let her) – at every turn her life is enveloped in art, and everything that unfolds is because of the shared passion.

The relationship she develops with Athelcroft, suspicious for a good portion due to his reputation, is subsequently corrected by her own experiences with him and his family. They are both artists. They both share the intoxicating lifestyle of art, and constantly learn from each other, whether it be new styles of painting, or a wicked wit, past secrets or a deep sensuality. Constance doesn’t leap head first into a relationship with someone who gave her a compliment or something more shallow, then having to pull herself out of it, she is instead pulled in almost unknowingly with the natural tide. It is her appreciation and handling of this which sets her apart from more soppy heroines who lose sight of their senses the moment they plummet into love. Her drive and self-confidence gives her the means to not even allow failure to enter the equation in her career choice. She will be a painter, and she will have her spot at the gallery. But she still has room in her life and heart, that she didn’t realise was there, which enhances and expands her character and experience, but never defines who she is. Though, the strength of it causes her to be fearful it might:

“To love you would be to give up myself surely. And myself is all I know. I am afraid of that.”

However, she had good taste in men:

“Balderdash!” the Marquess exclaimed. “Give up yourself? Never. Not yourself and not your paints – unless you decide that you no longer care for them. where did you hear such a thing?”

With her richness of spirit, Con turns around the actions, and subsequent heart, of her opposite, through engaging him mentally, artistically and finally physically. I don’t want to ruin the story but there are some surprises to our young Con that I didn’t expect, and rejoiced in! That there is the full package of one fine lady. Constance is the level of Elizabeth Bennet in intellect and wit, and everything Lizzie had with spiritual freedom and muddy boots, Con had in her art and perseverance.

“I haven’t the least intention of being the sacrifice to anyone’s slaughter.”

That is not romantic verse. It is Homer’s Odyssey. Kitty Packe painted by Sir William Beechey circa 1818-1821.

I think what is important about romance stories is that it is not all about sex. I’m not a prude, a pro-virginity (or vice versa – I don’t care what you do with it) spokesperson, or one of those creepy people who thinks it’s OK to stick fingers into someone else’s vagina to ‘prove’ they’re not tainted with having tasted the sins of the flesh – which, by the way, not a sin, and not proof. No. What is important, though the story is a romance in genre, is it equalises all the important parts about journeying through the lost art of courtship, and learning about a partner, their passion and needs, before committing to one deeply.

“I do not much care about your son’s past reputation. No more than I care about romantic verse. He is contrary, certainly, and often quite difficult, but I find that I like him regardless of that. …I will tell you the same thing as I told my sister. Athelcroft is much more interesting than any common rake.”

Women had few choices in those days besides being a wife, and though, obviously, the pleasures of flesh were not uncommonly experienced for either sex (otherwise the word illegitimate would have had no bearing anywhere in history…) they did know how to forge partnerships. Constance is certainly one of those women whose foray into the arena of love was not intentional, and who was dragged through mistakes and misapprehensions in a whirlwind of chaos and adulation. The great thing is, it was thoroughly worth it, and she comes out the other side an even more deeply layered woman, and a particular favourite of mine.

‘And suddenly she did dare.’


Esther Lanark: Prophesy Girl

Character: Esther Lanark

Text: The Witch of Glenaster (The Lanark Chronicles #1) by Jonathan Mills



Lyra Belacqua from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series : another little girl who puts her strong will and intellect to good use.

After her village is razed to the ground by huge beasts called fire-drakes, Esther finds herself alone and stranded with her younger brother, Magnus, and nowhere to go. That is until she learns the fire-drakes are evil entities controlled by the Witch of Glenaster. Having previously made a pact to herself to destroy the witch when she was older and stronger, this catalyst causes her to instead embark upon the journey well before her intended time. And in her beautifully realised story, this is what makes her interesting and important.

“‘A couple of years and you’ll be wrestling the boys, I shouldn’t wonder…’

‘I can wrestle them now!’ I replied, and the men laughed again, though my father frowned, and I knew some joke had been made at my expense.”

She’s not taken particularly seriously by the people around her initially, but what I love about this character is that no matter the amount of people who tell her the intentions she bears cannot be done she does not bow to it. Nor does she expect anyone to follow her and bear the burden. Esther is fully prepared to take the journey alone, one of my absolute favourite traits in characters, and the key one in Esther whose own stubbornness raises the stakes in her journey, but also keeps you pumped up to the fact she might actually do it.

‘You did not bring us this way. We would have come anyway. If it is me the Witch wants, then I will continue my journey alone, and you will all be safer without me.”


In Narnia, as the youngest Pevensie sibling, Lucy is usually underestimated due to her age.

Esther’s story wouldn’t be complete if she didn’t have obstacles in her way. Apart from the witch’s servants, strange ghoulish men of the woods, the fire-drakes and fiery apparitions that manage to find her on the way, she has her younger brother, runny-nosed and heavily distraught, to take care of. Their relationship tumbles through sweetness, and bitterness, broken promises and rare delight. She can’t abandon him, they have no family, it’s up to her to be sure he is taken to safety. She manages to maintain a level head and doting perseverance through his mood swings which would have already gotten the better of me as a grown adult…

Then there is Thomas Taper – a mysterious traveller who offers to accompany the children on their mission to the Citadel. Where many characters could have been ruined by the adult coming to the rescue in a sticky situation, and allowed them to take the lead, Esther never loses her drive, ensuring him she will carry out her intentions when she has delivered her brother to safety. Her pure spirit and honest intentions claim Thomas’ respect and also his loyalty.


Enid Blyton’s Naughtiest Girl, Elizabeth Allen, was always headstrong, wilful and up for adventure.

But Esther’s obsession with the witch explodes when she discovers she might actually be the the key to defeating her, to the point she puts herself and her brother in danger, and pushes Thomas to fury. Every time she insists she must carry out her duty she stands corrected, but fate ties Esther’s future inexplicably with the witch, and her journey continues. Esther’s growth from carefree, ridiculed nobody in the middle of nowhere to strong, independent and respected freedom fighter, who never believes what she intends to do is impossible, is an inspiring journey worth following.

“There is fear where we are going, and horror. I know you would not flinch from it, for you are stronger in heart and mind than most grown men…”

Esther Lanark encompasses the most innocent kind of bravery. She knows right and wrong, but she is too young to fully comprehend the dangers and complexities of the path she chooses, and how it will affect everyone around her. She sees the bigger picture only, the singular problem in her life that has caused so much grief – removing it will fix everything. And this is why her journey is important; through the eyes of this twelve-year-old girl there is only one true determination, and it is little tarnished by the thoughts and will of the adults around her – instead it is her own will that changes their perspectives.