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Children's LiteratureAlthough Sutcliff's story was first published in 1965, this Front Street edition remains a timely and compelling read, especially for those interested in historical fantasy fiction. Set in Britain during the first century, the novel follows Phaedrus, an enslaved gladiator who earns the Wooden Foil and is granted freedom after killing his best friend in a particularly emotional bout. Unsure of where his new life might lead, he accepts an offer from the leaders of a northern tribe to impersonate Prince Midir, a rightful heir to the Scottish throne who was blinded and robbed of his rule by the current leader, Queen Liadhan. Phaedrus, as the displaced King of the Scots, engages in several battles in the attempt to regain control of the Scottish Kingdom from the Picts. In the process, he learns much about his adopted people, among them Midir's best friend, Conory, who alone recognizes the deception, and Murna, Liadhan's daughter, who he comes to love. Like Phaedrus, readers experience and come to more fully appreciate a world rich in allusion, myth, and imagination. Violent and beautiful, descriptive and fast-paced, this novel wields a sort of give and take that lures readers in and pulls them along, educating and entertaining them in the process. 2006, Front Street/Boyds Mills Press, Ages 12 to 18.
—Wendy Glenn, Ph.D.