Sunday, 23 August 2015

The Letter for the King By Tonke Dragt

The Letter for the King was first published in 1962 in the Netherlands, but it took until 2013 for it to be translated into English by Laura Watkinson. Now on 3rd September 2015, its sequel The Secrets of the Wild Wood will also be translated, many years after its publication in the Netherlands back in 1965.
Learning more about Dragt while reading was great too, she’s really inspirational. Born in Indonesia, she was imprisoned in a Japanese war camp, writing her first book on any paper she could find before moving to the Netherlands after the war. In 1976 she won the State Prize for Youth Literature before being knighted in 2001.

Surprisingly, Id never heard of The Letter for the King until very recently, despite its million copy bestseller status, but I’m very glad I got the chance to read it. I think my biggest worry for this book was that the translation wouldn’t be very good. The writing in translated novels I have read before sometimes didn’t flow well. Different languages have different sayings and some of those in English can be awkward to read. Watkinson did a magnificent job translating, it was seamless and a joy to read.

The story begins as the protagonist Tiuri is staying the night with his friends in a church. He must stay the whole night, not speaking to anyone before he can gain his knighthood in the morning. But someone knocks frantically on the door, desperate for his help. The man instructs him that he must deliver an important letter across the mountains to the King there. Tiuri has to abandon everything to do this, and of course, it’s not an easy journey…

Dragt captures the spirit of being a teenage boy extremely well; he’s inexperienced and impatient at times, but very loveable. The kingdoms of Unauwen and Dagonaut are vast and vivid and with the maps in the front of the book, you can keep track of Tirui’s journey without feeling lost and allow you to paint an even better picture of the world in your head.
Tiuri’s story is an instant classic, its one that you will want to return to again and again, filled with medieval fantasy elements. The Letter for the King is a wonderful coming of age story, Tiuri grows over the course of the book, learning to make his own decisions and finding courage as he transports his secret letter across the land.

Gripping and fantastical, it’s a must read.
I highly recommend you pick up The Letter for the King, so that when Secrets of the Wild Wood is released, you can grab it straight away.

4.5 stars.

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