1 Maujin

Year 8 English Essay

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.) 

You may also be interested in: 

A fan site dedicated to the Kingdom of Ziva

Comments (1)

It is claimed time and again that writing an essay is like building a house. The statement is rather clichéd, but that doesn’t nullify its truth. Both require a solid foundation to support additional components or ‘levels’, and each require something to reinforce or complete the structure.  For a house, this finishing piece is a roof, and for an essay it is a conclusion.  In order to ‘build’ that perfect essay, follow the structure below, making sure to ‘support’ your argument with textual evidence:



First, answer the question and then introduce your thesis statement.  Remember, your thesis statement is your ‘big idea’ or ‘main argument’.  After this, introduce the texts which you will use to support and elucidate your thesis.  Provide a sentence or two that specifically explains their thematic or conceptual relevance to your thesis.  Finish with a concluding sentence to links to your first body paragraph.


Body Paragraphs

Always begin with a topic sentence which states what theme/concept/aspect of the text you will be discussing in the paragraph.  After this, explain this theme/concept/aspect in further detail, drawing in contextual information if relevant to your argument.  Then, introduce a textual example to support your argument and identify the techniques the composer uses to demonstrate their effect on meaning.  Repeat as required.  End with a concluding sentence that summarises your key point in the body paragraph. Follow this structure for however many body paragraphs you have.



Your conclusion should mirror your introduction by answering the question. You should also restate your thesis and in turn consider whether or not it holds up after your analyses of the texts. Finish your conclusion with a brief summary of the main concerns of your essay.


Revise, Revise, Revise!

After finishing your essay, remember to read over it a few times in order to correct grammatical inaccuracies and spelling errors. It’s important that you take time to revise your essay. See if you can find places where you can make your point more succinctly and where your argument is not properly supported by evidence from the text. Ultimately, revising your essay will help you to get extra marks, particularly if you are on the cusp of a band.

Hopefully, these tips will assist you in mastering the essay genre.  If you’re still experiencing trouble with structuring your essays or need additional assistance with textual analysis, remember that you can always visit the Writing Centre at Chatswood and Strathfield. Our tutors have a wealth of experience among them and are more than happy to go over your essays with you. Good luck!

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