Sebastian Darke: Prince of Fools


The lord of Laughter, the Monarch of Mirth–if only the bumbling 17-year-old Sebastian Darke could be a successful jester like his father. The problem is Sebastian’s not funny. But after his father’s death, with no choice but to beg in the streets, the half-human, half-elf teen sets off with Max, his father’s slightly cynical Buffalope, to offer his services as a jester to King Septimus of Keladon. On the way they meet Captain Cornelius Drummel, small in stature, but the fiercest of fighters. The three rescue the ...

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The lord of Laughter, the Monarch of Mirth–if only the bumbling 17-year-old Sebastian Darke could be a successful jester like his father. The problem is Sebastian’s not funny. But after his father’s death, with no choice but to beg in the streets, the half-human, half-elf teen sets off with Max, his father’s slightly cynical Buffalope, to offer his services as a jester to King Septimus of Keladon. On the way they meet Captain Cornelius Drummel, small in stature, but the fiercest of fighters. The three rescue the fair princess Kerin, who’s being held captive by brigands, and happily escort her home. If only Sebastian knew the kidnapping was engineered by the evil King Septimus!

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Editorial Reviews

AGERANGE: Ages 12 to 18.

In the first part of the novel, Sebastian Darke is a down-on-his-luck, 17-year-old son of a successful but recently deceased court jester. He knows all of his father’s jokes; unfortunately, when he tells them, no one laughs. He takes his father’s caravan and talking buffalope Max on a trip across the plains to Keladon, a richer, bigger kingdom than his own village in hopes of finding a job as court jester to King Septimus. On the way he meets the pint-size but indomitable warrior Cornelius and rescues Princess Kerin from the evil Brigands. The princess is on her way home to Keladon to celebrate her 17th birthday, only a year away from King Septimus handing over the reins of government to his niece. Part II reveals that King Septimus has plotted the death of his niece, and her two new friends have spoiled his plans. Superficially exuding gratitude, he wastes no time in orchestrating their destruction, which of course goes awry because he has underestimated them all. Part III recounts Kerin’s successful return to the kingdom and the resulting battle for power. The story is pleasantly suspenseful, told with humor and colorful characters, if a bit familiar. Max resembles Eddie Murphy’s Donkey, and Cornelius could be a stand in for Antonio Banderas’s Puss in Boots. Sebastian is handsomer than Shrek but easily fooled, though being half-elf he does have an ability to read people’s characters. Like all fantasy heroes, he grows into his role and ultimately saves the world, er, the Kingdom of Keladon, from the forces of evil. Fantasy lovers looking for escape should enjoy this one. Reviewer: Myrna Marler
March 2008 (Vol. 42, No.2)

AGERANGE: Ages 11 to 15.

Seventeen-year-old Sebastian has no time to grieve his father's death. He and his mother have no income, and the youth must try to follow in his father's jesting footsteps and land a job with King Septimus in the far land of Keladon. Accompanied by Max, the family's buffalope, Sebastian has dangerous encounters with brigands and lupers, and escapes only with the help of Cornelius, a dwarf fighter befriended along the way. Unknowingly they rescue the niece of King Septimus, who will inherit the throne on her upcoming eighteenth birthday, and bring upon themselves a world of trouble. Welshman Caveney writes horror stories for adults, so this novel is a significant but successful departure. In a very plot-driven book, the central characters are nonetheless well developed. Max is a particularly creative invention-a huge coward who complains continually yet comes through at the eleventh hour. The villain is not as despicable as one might hope, and only the simplest reader will miss the clues to his identity. Yet there are enough sword fights, treachery, and wicked creatures for any adventure reader. The sense of humor (deriving greatly from Max) makes it a fun read and should prove popular with fans of Artemis Fowl and the Shrek films. Reviewer: Melissa Moore
April 2008 (Vol. 31, No. 1)

School Library Journal

Gr 6-8

In this first installment in the series, half-elf, half-human Sebastian Darke sets out to follow in his dead father's footsteps. The problem is, his father was a jester and Sebastian isn't that funny. However, his flatulent, talking buffalope sidekick, Max, is. They set off to make their fortune at the court of King Septimus and meet the tough but extremely small Captain Cornelius along the way. The three heroes then rescue shallow but beautiful Princess Kerin, niece of King Septimus, from a group of Brigands (from Brigandia). When they finally arrive at court, they discover that they have foiled an attempt on the princess's life that was planned by their host, and they must not only save themselves, but also the princess. The story is well paced and quite funny. Lea's occasional full-page, black-and-white illustrations enhance the story. There is not time in the weeks in which the story unfolds for the maturity that occurs as Princess Kerin grows into her title, but it's really the relationships among Sebastian, Cornelius, and Max that make the story flow so well. While Caveney doesn't have Terry Pratchett's deft touch with humorous fantasy, this title will appeal to fans of The Wee Free Men (HarperCollins, 2003) and its sequels.-Kristin Anderson, Columbus Metropolitan Library System, OH

Kirkus Reviews
A half-human, half-elf teen sets out to make his fortune as a court jester, but proves he is anything but the prince of fools in this high-action fantasy. After his father dies, 17-year-old Sebastian reluctantly follows in his footsteps to become a jester even though he lacks "the gift." Sebastian memorizes his father's jokes, dons his three-pronged hat and sets course for distant Keladon to "seek employment at the court of King Septimus." His only traveling companion is Max, a skeptical, talking buffalope who pulls the caravan and doles out sarcastic commentary on everything, especially Sebastian's pathetic talents as a jester. When they encounter Cornelius, a good-natured diminutive soldier of fortune on his way to join Septimus's elite bodyguards, the travelers band together. Crossing the lawless land, they battle murderous Brigands, decimate attacking lupers, rescue Septimus's kidnapped niece Princess Kerin and return her to Keladon, where they become involved in a plot to kill her. Sebastian, Max and Cornelius prove their worth and emerge unusual but engaging heroes in this first of promised further adventures of Sebastian Darke. (Fantasy. 12-17)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780739363164
  • Publisher: Random House Audio Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/8/2008
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Age range: 12 years
  • Product dimensions: 5.37 (w) x 5.91 (h) x 1.16 (d)

Meet the Author

Philip Caveney has written many novels for adults. This is his first book for young adults. He lives in England.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Read an Excerpt

The ancient wooden caravan creaked slowly out from the cover of the trees and stopped for a moment on the wide stretch of plain.

If there had been anyone to observe the scene they would have noticed the words sebastian darke, prince of fools painted gaily on the sides of the caravan. Those with a keener eye might also have noticed that the word “Sebastian” looked somehow different to the rest of the sentence. It had been added in a rather wobbly, amateurish hand, clearly over- painting another name that had already been there.

The sun was low on the horizon and Sebastian was obliged to shade his eyes with the flat of one hand as he gazed off into the shimmering, heat-rippled distance. The land ahead of him was flat, arid, featureless red earth, baked by the sun, with here and there the occasional bunch of scrubby grass thrusting tenaciously through the soil. He had no real idea how far it was to the city of Keladon, but a merchant he had met the previous day had warned him to expect to travel for at least three days and nights.

“It’s a good distance,” the merchant had told him. “And those plains are infested with Brigands. You’d better sleep with one eye open, Elf-man.”

Sebastian was well used to this term, though he didn’t much care for it. He was a “breed”—the son of a human father and an elvish mother. His tall stature and handsome features clearly came from his father’s side of the family, but his mother’s lineage was there too, reflected in the large jet-black irises of his eyes and his long, slightly pointed ears. His gangly frame was accentuated by the striped black and white costume he was wearing, complete with a tall three-pronged hat topped by jingling bells. The costume had been his father’s and hung rather loosely on Sebastian, but he had steadfastly refused his mother’s offers to alter it, saying that in time he would grow to fit the clothing. Fitting comfortably into the role of a jester might take a little longer.

Sebastian clicked his tongue and slapped the reins against the shaggy haunches of Max, the single buffalope that pulled the caravan. Max snorted, shook his great horned head and set off again at his usual leisurely pace. He had been in the Darke family for as long as Sebastian could remember; indeed, one of his earliest memories was of his father lifting him onto the buffalope’s mighty back and leading him slowly around the paddock. Max was now of advanced years and had many gray hairs peppering the rich ginger of his shaggy hide. With each passing day he seemed to grow more cantankerous, and he had never been slow in stating his dissatisfaction.

“I don’t much like the look of this,” he muttered now, as he started off across the plain. “We’re going to need plenty of water.”

“We’ve got water,” Sebastian told him. “Enough for at least two days. And besides, there are streams out there. That merchant said so.”

Max sniffed disdainfully. “Why you’d take the word of a Berundian oil-seller is quite beyond me,” he said. “A man like that would sell his grandmother for a few croats.”

“You suspect everybody,” Sebastian chided him. “According to you, every person we meet is some kind of villain.”

“That’s because they generally are. I noticed the Berundian managed to sell you some lamp oil.”

“So? We needed some!”

“Not at three croats a bottle we didn’t. Daylight robbery! Back at the market in Jerabim you could get a bucket of the stuff for—”

“We’re not in Jerabim now,” Sebastian reminded him.

They moved on in gloomy silence for a while and Sebastian found himself thinking wistfully about his hometown, the place he’d lived for all of his seventeen years. He closed his eyes for a moment and saw the big bustling market in the town square, where prosperous merchants in their embroidered cloaks loudly advertised their wares as the townspeople moved past them. Suddenly a whole series of familiar images, smells and tastes assailed Sebastian’s senses. He saw the richly decorated textiles and carpets that hung from wooden frames around the many stalls. He smelled the rich odors of the cattle pens, where people came to barter for buffalopes and equines. He tasted the delicious tang of the hot sherbet they served in the cafés, and savored the warm aroma of elvish coffee emanating from the many restaurants that lined the square. . . .

Then he had a vivid recollection of his mother’s face on the day he’d finally left home—her red-rimmed eyes; her brave, forlorn attempt at a smile. Sitting up on the seat of the caravan, he’d called down to her that he’d be back just as soon as he’d made his fortune, that all her troubles would be over . . . but neither of them had really believed it.

“Take care of yourself, Sebastian,” she’d called to him. “Remember, if things don’t work out for you, I’ll still be here!”

That had been three moons ago. He didn’t like to think of her sitting alone at night in the shabby homestead, while the cold night winds sighed outside the window—

“This is tedious!” Max’s whining voice broke rudely into his thoughts. “I mean, look at it. There’s nothing out there, not even a hill or a tree. The least you could do is humor me with a little conversation.”

“I’m not in the mood,” said Sebastian. “Besides, most buffalopes know their place. They don’t jabber incessantly at their owners.”

“You’re not my owner,” Max reminded him. “That honor belonged to your father.”

“He’s been dead over a year now. I inherited the house and I inherited you. Accept the fact and shut up!”

“Oh, that’s charming, isn’t it!” exclaimed Max in disgust. “Downgraded to a mere possession. Well, at least I know where I stand.”

Sebastian immediately regretted his words. “It’s not like that. You’re not a possession. It’s more . . . you’re more of a . . .”

“Servant? Chattel?”

“I was going to say . . . a partner.”

Max seemed rather pleased with this. He lifted his head a little and walked with fresh spring in his step. “A partner,” he mused. “Well, yes, let’s face it, you wouldn’t have got this far without my help. Who was it showed you the path through Geltane Woods? Eh? And it was my idea to take shelter in that pine grove last night.”

“I’m very grateful,” Sebastian assured him. “Really.” The last thing he needed right now was a buffalope that didn’t feel like walking anymore.

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