About Books #55: A Letter For The King

So here’s a fun story for you. When I was about 8 or 9, we went – as we did every year – to this huge book fair. Every year, we would be allowed to buy exactly 1 book. That year, as chance would have it, I didn’t quite know what book I wanted. So my dad pointed out this book I’d never heard of before. A book that had, that very year, been chosen as the “best of the best” of children’s books published since 1955. This is, as it so happens, the first time I can remember me buying a book because someone else told me to. And guess what? Here I am, 14 years later, telling you the exact same thing. Go into the world, and buy The Letter for the King. I promise you – you won’t regret it.

I was offered an ARC of this book via Edelweiss in exchange for a review. All opinions expressed are strictly my own.

The story

A young messenger. A secret mission. A kingdom in peril.

It is the dead of night. 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 GreatMountains – 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 is the thrilling story of one boy’s battle against evil, set in an enchanted world of chivalry, courage and true friendship.

The opinion

I first read this book as a kid, and the thing I remember most clearly from it, is how utterly immersed I was in the world that Tonke Dragt had drawn up. I’ve been a history lover almost always, so even at a young age, I could appreciate the ways the author played with the concept of knighthood, with the place of religion in that society, … And if you should know nothing about any of that? She still manages to make the world building so strong that as a reader, I was just sucked into the story within a matter of seconds.

Even as an adult, I found it hard to break away from this book. It’d been years since I last read it, and with childhood favorites that can either be a really good, or a really bad thing. Let’s be real: some books don’t age too well. The opposite can be said for this one, though. If anything, I feel that I appreciated the story, its nuances, and of course the narration, more so than I did when I first read this. The closes thing I could compare it to, would be something like Lord of the Rings, but more historical. Honestly? I definitely enjoyed this book a lot more than I did Lord of the Rings. Even if reading The Letter for the King has made me want to reread LOTR!

Now, an important note here should be, of course, the language. When I first read this book, I did so in its original language: Dutch. And again, just like reading a book in your youth versus when you’re younger… Reading a book in its original language versus in a translation? It doesn’t always end well. Which is why probably my highest praise for everything that is The Letter for the King should go, I think, to the translator. I actually took my Dutch version of the book at some points just to “check” how she was doing. Let me tell you: excellent does not suffice. Translating is never an easy job. But this translation might just be one of the best I’ve ever read. Nuances were maintained, figures of speech honored and the general “tone” and “feel” of the book upheld. If you don’t read Dutch? This version reads “as if it were Dutch”. And that’s honestly just about the highest praise I can give any book!

The rating: 5/5

I don’t give out 5 star ratings easily. Basically – a book needs to have changed my perspective before it gets that rating. As a kid: this was the book that got me into historical fiction. Even into High Fantasy, because of it’s historical aspect. As an adult? This book had me actually terrified with anticipation at one point, and anxious to continue reading at every other point. Whether you’re 9, 25 or 82? I honestly think this is the kind of book that you’ll love no matter you’re age. I know I have. (Goodreads)