The Letter for the King
By Tonke Dragt
Translated by Laura Watkinson
Published by Pushkin Children's Books
ISBN 978 1 78269 026 9
In days of old, the top priorities for a knight were honesty, chivalry and loyalty. Knights set out on quests, duelled in jousts, met assassins, spies and fair ladies. To be one was an honour: at all times he had to show virtue and valour, and if needed, lay down his life.
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King tales place in a medieval fantasy land. This wonderful YA novel was first published in the Netherlands in 1962, and now there's a great English translation that should bring thousands of new fans to this much-loved classic.
Tiuri is a loyal, intelligent and courageous 16-year-old squire about to be promoted to a knight. Tiuri and his fellow squires have to spend the night before the ceremony in a chapel to prepare themselves spiritually for what is to come. They must not, under any circumstances, leave the chapel until dawn.
But an old man knocks on the chapel door asking for help with a matter of life or death. The old man is desperate, alone and in great distress. The other squires ignore him, but Tiuri is in a quandary: his conscience says he should help, but this could mean forfeiting his knighthood. What would a real knight do in this situation?
Fully aware of the consequences, Tiuri reluctantly agrees to help the old man who gives him a letter to deliver to the Black Knight with the White Shield. Tiuri is sure he can get there and back before dawn.
But when Tiuri reaches the Black Knight, he has been attacked and left for dead by a gang of assassins. The Black Knight gives Tiuri a letter that must be delivered to the King of neighbouring Unauwen. The fate of a kingdom depends on the contents, so off Tiuri goes.
And now the excitement begins. Tiuri makes friends, faces terrible dangers, learns about courage and honour, and finds himself at the centre of terrible political upheaval. The novel is beautifully constructed, and packed with real adventure, and heroes, and villains.
The Letter for the King is a pulse-pounding adventure that doesn't miss a trick from its intriguing opening to its thrilling ending. This cinematic quest story will keep readers of all ages riveted to the final page. Be entranced by a classic that has taken its time to reach us, but was well worth the wait.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com