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ESSAY: Year 8 student's essay on my novel 'The Starthorn Tree'

Monday, August 06, 2012

Here is another brilliant essay on The Starthorn Tree by Eli Cole, a Year 8 student at Marist Brothers Ashgrove, in Queensland. I think it's incredible that these three boys - Hayden Sullivan, Callum Williams and today's essay writer, Eli Cole - are only 13 years old. I am so glad that their teacher, Ms Rebecca Taylor, chose my novel for her students to read and examine, and that is has inspired them all to such brilliant academic heights.

Here is Eli's essay:

Lady Lisandre ziv Estaria from The Starthorn Tree, written by Kate Forsyth, is a snobby brat who cares for no one who doesn’t live in Castle Estelliana. She annoys Lord Zavion for fun, orders her servants to do things for her (that she could easily do herself) and cares naught for races other than her own. Lady Lisandre is quite independent (for her race) and she cares for her mother (Lady Ginerva) and her brother (Count Zygmunt) more than anyone else in the whole of Ziva, and anyone else (to her) is just there to be her slaves and to do her and her race’s bidding for them. Her strongest relationship with anyone of non-starkin blood (even though this relationship isn’t strong) is with the seamstress, Briony. Briony cares for Lady Lisandre more than any other servant, but they still aren’t considered “friends” (as yet). But, even though Briony is very important to Lisandre as this story commences, many other relationships change her as a person.

 As this story goes on, and as Lisandre makes more friends, she begins to change as a person. When all six of the main characters finally all know each other (Pedrin Goatherd, Durrik Bell-Crier, Sedgely, Maglen/Mags and of course Briony), an unbreakable bond is formed. With everyone, that is, but Lady Lisandre. She is very repulsed by the hearthkin and wildkin and does not like them even looking at her! It isn’t uncommon for anyone of starkin blood to be so repulsed by those inferior to themselves, and Lisandre is no exception. She refuses to let the other five forget that she is ‘better’ than the rest of them, constantly saying, “Do you not know I am one of the Ziv?” 

But there is one moment in this adventure, when Lady Lisandre feels disgusted by what the starkin have done and is disgusted to be called one of them. That moment is when she sees Durrik’s injured back, which was injured whilst making (or helping to make) the glass tower. She is so shocked to see how cruel her race is and this is the first time she has seen what the starkin have done first-hand. She doesn’t even think the starkin could’ve done it; she has to be told that it was “a gibgoblin in human form.” This moment contributes greatly to how Lisandre changes by the end of this adventure.

 Lady Lisandre changes probably the most out of anyone in this story. At the start of this story, she was snobby, stuck up, repulsed by other races other than her own, quite annoying to read about (because she was such a brat) and disliked by almost everyone who goes on this adventure. But at the end of the story, almost everything has changed. She is quite selfless, willing to do pretty much anything to make the others’ trip easier, all the differences in race within the group are all put aside and she doesn’t care anymore if they are different to herself. 

The others are willing to give their lives for her, and she is willing to give hers for not only the rest of the group, but for the greater good of Estelliana. Pedrin risks his life to save her when she falls in a lake and the rest are afraid of the thought of losing her when they see that she will cut herself on the starthorn tree. She is very independent (for anyone of any race) and by the end she doesn’t tell Briony what to do; in fact, she even tries to make the load on Briony easier. The night after she sees Durrik’s back, she helps Briony by carrying some things, and everyone is very surprised because she hardly lifted a finger before this. So by the end of this adventure, Lady Lisandre Ziv Estaria is a very hard-working, caring person who will make an excellent ruler of Estelliana and someone that will make everyone in the land happy.

Well done, Eli!

A fan site dedicated to the Kingdom of Ziva!

ESSAY: Year 8 students' essays on The Starthorn Tree

Monday, July 30, 2012

As I posted last week, Year 8 students at Marist Brothers Ashgrove in Queensland have been studying The Starthorn Tree, and writing some wonderfully insightful essays on the novel under exam conditions.

Here is another exceptional essay, written by 13 year old Callum Williams:

Lisandre is a rebellious, 13-year-old starkin princess who has very rarely left the jewel-studded confines of the Castle Estelliana, situated near the town of Levanna-On-The-Lake. 

Early in the book, Lisandre is portrayed as being spoilt, bratty and stuck up. She relies upon her servant girl, Briony, for her every whim to be fulfilled. Her attitude at the beginning of the journey draws instant dislike from her companions. 

However, Durrik tries to impress Lisandre because of her beauty. At the edge of the Perilous Forest, when the rising sun reveals the two figures that joined the fire the previous night, Durrik lays eyes upon Lisandre and was instantly “at her service”. This attests to Lisandre’s beauty and Durrik’s willingness to assist her. 

Lisandre had very little knowledge of the world outside the castle. She appears inconsiderate, as she only cares for her own wants. Although she hides it well, Lisandre is very frightened of the Perilous Forest. She views herself as of greater importance than the others. She was always saying that she was “of the Ziv” and should not be looked at directly by hearthkin, spoken to directly by hearthkin or disrespected. Meeting the others on the journey conjures up a change within her.

Lisandre is shocked by hearing the opinions of starkin through her companions. Pedrin’s dislike for the starkin is reinforced by Mags’ history with the race. Lisandre viewed her father as fair and caring and she could not believe what Mags was saying about her mother and infant brother being killed in a housefire caused by starkin soldiers and lead by Count Zoltan. 

Witnessing firsthand the terrible welts on Durrik’s back from his cruel and unnecessary whipping in the glass factory, is ultimately what converts Lisandre from being like most starkin royalty to being a concerned, caring individual. This new-found change within her brings about a change in Estelliana as her new outlook on life influences her ruling brother, Count Zygmunt. 

Also, meeting with the Erlrune and realizing the living conditions of many hearthkin and wildkin forces her to think again about her own kin. Although early in the book, she complains about the mistreatment of the hearthkin to Lord Zavion, she actually did not know the extent of the conditions the hearthkin were forced to work under. She actually didn’t care about what was happening outside the castle, she only complained to annoy Lord Zavion. Constantly being chased by the starkin soldiers caused doubt within Lisandre about her race also. These circumstances cause Lisandre’s many changes.

Lisandre was the most changed character from the book. She went from being rude and unconcerned, attitudes disliked by her fellow travellers, to caring about others and their feelings. A testament to this is when Lisandre recognizes the effort her servant girl, Briony, goes to in order to repair her silken dress in the hollow tree. The fact that she is grateful and offers to take a wildkin’s heavy pack for her is truly revolutionary as starkin always have their work for their servants. Making a bargain with a hearthkin has also very rarely been done by starkin royalty. Gratefulness from Lisandre also arises after Pedrin saved her from the river when she fell from the log. Lisandre is portrayed early in the story as bratty and ungrateful, a far cry from her demeanor toward the end of the book.

Well done, Callum! I'm so happy you enjoyed my novel and I hope you go on to read many more of my books. 

Thanks to Callum's wonderful teacher, Ms Rebecca Taylor, for sharing the boys' amazing essays with me.

ESSAY: Year 8 student's top-marking essay on The Starthorn Tree

Monday, July 23, 2012

A Year 8 class at a school in Queensland has recently been studying my novel The Starthorn Tree, and their teacher, Rebecca Taylor, wrote to me to tell me what a wonderful response she had received. 

One boy, Hayden Sullivan, received a A++ mark for his essay, the highest mark ever awarded.

"I am sure you will be able to see why!' Ms Taylor wrote to me. 'For a boy who has just turned 13, (and) his first attempt at the analytical expository genre (and in an exam!), what he has written is remarkable."

I have to agree!

Here is Hayden's essay: 

Within the early chapters of The Starthorn Tree, authored by Kate Forsyth, Lady Lisandre ziv Estaria is portrayed as a vain yet somewhat audacious starkin youth, that displays little concept of life outside the walls of the Castle of Estelliana. Lisandre assumes an attitude of superiority towards those of the hearthkin, believing them to be inferior to those of her kindred. Throughout the preliminary stages of the novel, Lisandre constantly reasserts her status. Shortly after taking refuse at Pedrin and Durrik’s campsite, accompanied by her mistress Briony, Lisandre proceeds to degrade Pedrin using the terms “sirrah”, “goatboy” and “imbecilic oaf”, as well as describing him as ‘peasantry’. 

Following this incident, Lisandre attempts to intimidate Pedrin through promising to have him whipped, before being promptly reminded by Briony that there is nobody to conduct the punishment. When inquired by Durrik regarding the purpose of her journey and she reveals her intentions of seeking the Erlrune, she states she is not afraid, for she is “one of the Ziv.” This reinforces the impression the reader has of Lisandre’s knowledge regarding life outside the castle walls, believing her title grants her protection. 

Despite all this, Lisandre displays a certain audacity, which initially ‘drew’ Briony to her. This is demonstrated in the way in which she continually defied Lord Zavion when we first meet Lisandre and in her intent to brave the dangers of the Perilous Forest in order to perhaps gain knowledge as to how she can revive her brother, Count Zygmunt. Throughout this journey, Lisandre endures much hardship, the events of their travels leading to subsequent change in both attitude and character.

Following Briony’s gesture of kindness in staying awake all night and sacrificing her remaining silkworms to mend Lisandre’s damaged dress, Lisandre acknowledges the inequitable way she had been treating not only Briony but all of her companions, triggering a transformation. After witnessing the extent of Durrik’s starkin-inflicted wounds, she demands Briony mend her dress as a way of expressing her anger at how her kindred had treated a crippled hearthkin boy. Prior to this point, Lisandre displayed no appreciation of Briony’s assistance, treating Briony similarly to how Durrik had been treated. She then attempts to lessen Briony’s burden by volunteering to carry her possessions, as an act of contrition. 

Lisandre’s first act of compassion has a significant influence on the dynamic of the group. This becomes most evident when the group establishes camp, where it is stated, “the group felt a warm sense of satisfaction and camaraderie” (p 271), as a result of the contribution and cooperation of all. After Pedrin risks his own life to rescue Lisandre from the Evenlode, Lisandre expresses her gratitude by clasping Pedrin’s hand in hers and saying, “You saved my life, I thank you.” This simple act symbolizes the breaking down of the cultural barrier, as Lisandre would have previously considered the thought of touching a hearthkin repulsive. This act of kindness on Briony’s behalf directly correlates to Lisandre’s change at the end of the novel. 

By the novel’s conclusion, Lisandre’s initial elitist attitude is changed into one of empathy and acceptance the journey’s events inspiring a new found maturity in Lisandre. Throughout the course of the journey, Lisandre witnesses the decline of Estelliana and becomes fully devoted to upholding her promise to the Erlrune to restore the land. In the final chapter, Lisandre declares, “There is a long way to go before we can even begin to think the world is a better place to be” (p 496). 

With this statement, Lisandre acknowledges the damage the starkin have caused to their relationship with the hearthkin, and how they have misused their power, such insight not expected from Lisandre. In addition to this, Lisandre no longer considers the hearthkin and the wildkin to be inferior to her kindred. After Count Zygmunt is awakened from his comatose state, he reprimands Pedrin for having his arm around Lisandre as she is one of the Ziv, with which Lisandre replies, “I think he’s rather gathered that by now.” She follows up this statement by describing Pedrin and Briony as “the very best friends anyone could want”, indicating her acceptance of them despite their racial background.

From Lisandre’s initial superficial persona, Lisandre undergoes the most significant transformation of all the companions, developing an empathetic and accepting character. The reader can now remain assured that Lisandre will indeed attempt to restore the land.

Written under exam conditions by Hayden Sullivan on 12/6/2012.

Hayden, I am so glad that you loved reading The Starthorn Tree so much, and that it inspired you to write such a great essay and be awarded such an astounding mark. I do hope you'll go on to read the other books in my Estelliana series, The Wildkin's Curse and The Starkin Crown

I will be posting another two essays by students from Marist College Ashgrove in the next few weeks - some truly brilliant students there! (who are very lucky to have such an inspiring & dedicated teacher in Ms Taylor.) 

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