Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Letter for the King by Tonke Dragt

  • ISBN-10: 0545819784 - Hardcover $18.99
  • Publisher: David Fickling Books (August 25, 2015), 528 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the publisher and the Amazon Vine Reviewers program.

The blurb:
Sixteen-year-old Tiuri must spend hours locked in a chapel in silent contemplation if he is to be knighted the next day.  But as he waits by the light of a flickering candle, he hears a knock at the door and a voice desperately asking for help.

A secret letter must be delivered to King Unauwen across the Great Mountains -- a letter upon which the fate of the entire kingdom depends.  Tiuri has a vital role to play, one that might cost him his knighthood.

Tiuri's journey will take him through dark, menacing forests, across treacherous rivers, to sinister castles and strange cities.  He will encounter evil enemies who would kill to get the letter, but also the best of friends in the most unexpected places.

He must trust no one. 

He must keep his true identity secret.

Above all, he must never reveal what is in the letter. . . 

The Letter for the King was first published in 1962. I began the book wondering whether the story's voice and pace would seem slow in comparison to the books of today, but Tonke Dragt's work works so well. The young squire must keep guard all night in order to win his knighthood. But when Tiuri hears frantic knocking and calls for help at the door, Tiuri responds. He's asked to deliver an urgent message in the middle of the night, and although he knows that this may cost him his knighthood, he undertakes the task.

His task doesn't end at delivering the message - things get more dangerous. As Tiuri finds that he's the one person around who can help, he goes forward. It's a story of an ordinary boy caught up in extraordinary events and what he gives up to follow his code.

I was drawn in and found myself wondering what else might happen to Tiuri. Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has many tests and surprises for Tiuri and the reader and she delivers a satisfying ending.

About the Author:
Tonke Dragt was born in Jakarta in 1930 and spent most of her childhood in Indonesia.  When she was twelve, she was interned in a camp run by the Japanese occupiers, where she wrote (with a friend) her very first book using begged and borrowed paper.  Her family moved to the Netherlands after the war, where she studied at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague and eventually became an art teacher.  She published her first book in 1961, followed a year later by The Letter for the King, which has won numerous awards and has been translated into sixteen languages.  Dragt was awarded the Dutch State Prize for Youth Literature in 1976 and was knighted in 2001.

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