An Enemy at Green Knowe by Lucy Boston: Alchemy and magic
Updated: Jan 4
Fifth book in the Green Knowe Chronicles series
Overall rating: 8/10
Quality of writing: 9.5/10
Concerning content (language, violence, etc.): some
Age level: 10 and up
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An Enemy at Green Knowe, the fifth installment in the Green Knowe Chronicles series, exemplifies Boston’s characteristic descriptive style, despite having a faster-paced and more cohesive plot than other books in the series. When a strange woman rents a nearby house and visits the old manor house Green Knowe in search of an alchemical tome from the 1600s, Tolly and Ping soon encounter powers that they could have never imagined, which threaten the existence of Green Knowe itself. While the book does have several scenes that could be disturbing for younger readers, the storyline is engaging and readable, perfect for a slightly older audience than the other Green Knowe books.
The plot of An Enemy at Green Knowe has more direction and cohesiveness than the other books in the Green Knowe Chronicles, due to the conflict throughout the book between Dr. Melanie Powers (the villain) and the protagonists (Tolly, Ping, and Granny Oldknow). Boston seems to partially reverse her usual focus on the book’s unique atmosphere rather than plot in this book: while she does build the book’s atmosphere with her characteristic descriptive language, the plot has a distinct rising action, climax and conclusion—which cannot be said for all of Boston’s works. Overall, the plot of An Enemy at Green Knowe is more developed than that of the other Green Knowe books, and merits a 9/10.
Boston’s characters in this book are a mixed bag: the protagonists do not really develop much over the course of the story (likely since each has already appeared in at least one book in the series). However, Boston does develop the villain decently, even making her a slightly sympathetic character (since it is shown that her evil actions were due to her being possessed by a demon, not her own nature). Boston also does a good job of contrasting the good and evil characters in the story, by writing in specific details (such as Melanie Powers’ killing inoffensive songbirds) that reinforce the reader’s negative understanding of the villain. On the other hand, the protagonists manifest loyalty both to Green Knowe and to each other by persevering in their defense, despite Dr. Powers’ repeated attacks. Overall, despite the mixed development of characters, the distinct contrast between protagonists and antagonist earns this book a 8.5/10.
This book is not a difficult read in terms of style, at least once the reader is accustomed to Boston’s use of descriptive language. The book also includes fewer flashbacks than most other books in the series (like A Stranger at Green Knowe, it begins with a flashback, the only one in the book). Overall, the style of this book is not too difficult to read. (4/10)
Quality of writing
Although An Enemy at Green Knowe is written in Boston’s characteristic descriptive style, it also has a subtle undercurrent of suspense and foreboding—an almost Gothic element—which does not occur in the rest of the series. Additionally, the “magic” present in all of the Green Knowe books takes a darker turn in this volume, with references to demons and the occult scattered throughout the story. However, Boston makes it clear that these forces are not ambiguous (able to be used for good or evil purposes) but are intrinsically evil. Overall, the quality of the writing itself is excellent (like all the other green Knowe books); however, Boston blends it with elements that are clearly darker than those in her other works. (9.5/10)
While An Enemy at Green Knowe has no real language or violence, it does incorporate themes that are substantially darker than those in the rest of the series, including black magic, the occult, demons and possession. While much is not explicitly stated, these themes do occur fairly frequently and are an important consideration for anyone thinking about reading the book. On the whole, Boston does present these forces as evil, and destined to be defeated by Good (as represented by the protagonists), a commendable choice on her part. The only other concern regarding this book are the several scenes that are relatively “scary”—there are more of these in An Enemy at Green Knowe than any other book in the series. Overall, this book has substantially more dark and “scary” scenes than any of the other Green Knowe Chronicles, although Boston does handle these elements well.
This book is better fitted to an older audience than the other Green Knowe books due to its references to “darker” themes (see above) and potentially disturbing scenes. Overall, this book is best suited to readers ages 10 and up.