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I like to read classics, historical fiction and world lit. Oh and I love short stories.

De brief voor de koning / the Letter for the King (Tonke Dragt)

De brief voor de koning / druk 15 - Tonke Dragt

As a child, "De brief voor de koning" and its sequel "Geheimen van het wilde woud" (Secrets of the Wild Forest) were my favorite books. It has everything a good childrens book / YA book needs: unadulterated fun and adventure, a main character on a mission, many mysteries to unravel and most of all: friendship and overcoming evil. Who's a friend and who's an enemy is an important theme in both books.

Set in a distant past, during the age of chivalry, the story revolves around Tiuri, a boy who is about to become knight, if it weren't for the strange visitor who taps on the door of the chapel the night before his dubbing. He takes it upon himself to complete the difficult task given to him by this mysterious stranger. Hunted down by many enemies he begins a journey to a foreign land to complete his mission. Who are these Red riders and Grey knights who are after Tiuri? What do they want from him? Do they know his secret mission?

The book is well written and easy to read. The type of book children read under the covers, when they're supposed to be sleeping - just one more chapter to see whether Tiuri makes it out of a tight spot.

Re-reading it again after 15 years has been just as much fun. I discovered many new things and was once again sucked into the world of Tiuri, cheering on my favorite characters.

I see several people mention Lord of the Rings in their reviews. The perceived similarities between the books, in my eyes, are due to their common source. Both Tolkien and Dragt turn to medieval literature as their inspiration. Where Tolkien turned to the sagas for inspiration, "De brief voor de koning" is clearly influenced by the knightly adventures of the knights of the Round Table.

Dragt weaves different topos (premises) common in these medieval knightly adventures into her stories. Thus, Tiuri meets knight-errants, who are held to the highest esteem, and many mysterious knights who do not reveil their identity: Grey knights, Black knights, Red riders... The true identity of a character is discovered and knights set out on quests of revenge or to serve their king.
In the sequel "Geheimen van het wilde woud", just like king Arthur's knights, the characters set out a quest to unravel the mysteries in the dark forest. Tiuri meets many characters from his previous adventures, but also makes some new enemies and friends. When he discovers the secrets the woods hold, will he be able to warn his king in time?

While Dragt uses these different ideas from medieval fiction, it never hampers the story. She gives it a free, modern interpretation. She's not out to give you a moral or history lesson, she wants to tell you a bloody good story.

Check out http://www.letterenfonds.nl/en/book/281/the-letter-for-the-king for a full list of languages in which this book is available as well as a sample chapter in English.