"I'm kind of dying to know how it ends." I told Jacob in the middle of the book. He did his "har-har-very-punny" laugh, but I hadn't actually meant the pun. Leavitt just does a very good job of building suspense.
This is an original fairy tale, though it has the whole Arabian Nights thing going since Keturah manages to stay alive after a brush with Lord Death by promising him the ending to her story tomorrow. She's known in her feudal village for her storytelling, and Leavitt gives her a beautiful voice. The imagery in the story is just lovely, and where imagery is deliberately vague (what does Death look like, after all?) mood is there in buckets.
The pacing was spot on, too. If this book had been written by another author it could have gone on and on. As it is, you know that Keturah is thinking and scheming but she never shares her innermost thoughts. Perhaps that helps with the suspense. Anyway, it's a slim book, and not a word is wasted.
This is one I want to add to my collection, and I think it would be fabulous if read aloud. If you like fairy tales (the meat and cheese kind, not the bubblegum and lollipop kind), you'll like Keturah and Lord Death. It was a finalist for the National Book Award, too. Thanks to Shannon Hale for mentioning it on her blog.