Keturah—beautiful, sixteen, the village storyteller—follows a hart into the forest and quickly loses her way. After three days, she is exhausted and starving. She knows that death can't be far away.
But when he finally comes for her, she finds that Death is a young man—melancholy and brooding, lonely and not without compassion. Keturah tells him a story, and they strike a bargain: He will allow her to live one more day. If, in that time, she hasn't found and married her One True Love, she will return to him, finish her story, and become his Queen.
Keturah becomes a Scheherezade of sorts, spinning out her story and escaping Lord Death again and again. But her fellow villagers are aware of her new acquaintance. The relationship terrifies them. Rumors fly.
And a plague is coming.
Keturah and Lord Death has a bit of everything—bravery, love, romance, comfort, magic and sacrifice. The storytelling is such that, given the right reader, it'll make a fantastic audiobook.
Though it isn't technically a retelling of another story (as far as I know), I'll be recommending it to readers who are drawn to Donna Jo Napoli, Robin McKinley and older fans of Gail Carson Levine. I'm also going to try it on some of my Twilight girls. Stylistically, they're very different books, but the dark romance is similarly attractive.
The prologue suggests that Keturah herself is telling the story at a village gathering—she is a storyteller, has the same name as the heroine, the names of her friends at the gathering are the names of her friends in the story—and that the story of Lord Death is entirely her own creation. By the end, I was so wrapped up in it that I was convinced that the story was a true one—it just HAD to be—I just couldn't bear to think of Keturah and Lord Death as imaginary creations.
Mark of a good storyteller, no?