The Pure Heart is a gripping, chilling, gothic, YA horror set in 16th century Scotland. It starts on an island with the main character, Iseabail, about to be married to Artair, the son of the island’s chief and her future decided. Then her future changes completely with the arrival of a stranger in a boat carrying a letter. Iseabail, the only member of the community who can read, is asked to read it. The letter is from a wealthy merchant named Alexander Plaustrell, who wants a girl to look after his daughter, with Gaelic reading skills and a pure of heart, which is determined when a pearl remains a bright white when Iseabail wears it. In exchange, he will send a boat full of supplies to the island community during the winter months. And so begins Iseabail’s new life as she goes off in the boat with the stranger to live on the Scottish mainland in a remote mansion as a companion to his daughter, Maria, an unusually mature and precocious 7-year-old who speaks and writes Latin, Gaelic and Italian.
Everything about this story is a mystery. There is much to unnerve Iseabail in her new surroundings: the remoteness of the mansion; the fact that no one comes near, as they believe it is full of witchcraft and the strange behaviour of her 7-year-old companion. The mystery intensifies when Plaustrell returns home from overseas with a peculiar pet for Maria and Iseabail finds out what he keeps in his forbidden tower.
I loved this book for the surprises it delivered throughout. At every twist and turn, we are left wondering until the very end the purpose that Iseabail was brought to the mansion. Suffice to say, I did not see the ending coming, which only further serves to say how much I recommend reading this book. The Pure Heart is described as Jane Eyre meets Susan Hill, but with a YA twist. I would certainly agree.
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