This first installment of the Knight and Rogue novels, a planned heroic fantasy series, chronicles the misadventures of a sarcastic 17-year-old ex-con and his idealistic employer, who is just one year older. Sir Michael Sevenson is a knight-errant, although, as the narrator puts it, that kind of "romantic idiocy" hasn't existed in more than two centuries. After Sir Michael saves the narrator, Fisk, from a lengthy jail sentence by hiring him on as his squire, the unlikely duo rescue an imprisoned damsel in distress from a tower-only to discover that they've freed a woman suspected of murdering her husband. To make amends, Sir Michael and his wily squire set out to capture the villainess and bring her back to trial. Bell (The Goblin Wood) fills the ensuing realm-spanning journey with magic-filled adventure and moments of downright hilarity, especially scenes involving Tipple, the alcoholic horse. While some serious shortcomings mar the narrative-characters aside from the two protagonists are essentially flat, and the world-building aspect is practically nonexistent-the fast-paced action and well-developed friendship between Sir Michael and Fisk make up for any inadequacies. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Half buddy novel and half chivalric quest, Bell's tale will appeal both to those who enjoy banter and to those who appreciate an adventure. As the youngest of four noble sons, Michael has limited options. Like Don Quixote, he idealistically decides to take up the long-outdated practices of a chivalrous knight. Squires being thin on the ground, Michael pays the debts of a young rogue and acquires his own Pancho Sancha-a reluctant young man named Fisk. Touched by the plight of a damsel imprisoned in a tower, Michael makes her secret rescue his first quest. The adventure goes beautifully until he and his squire are arrested for freeing a murderess awaiting trial. The two are sentenced to recapture the wicked damsel, Lady Ceciel. Their quarry turns out to be a woman of resources and a deep determination to retain her freedom. As the young men extract themselves from one dangerous trap after another, they begin to wonder if she may also be innocent. The adventures serve to strengthen the bond between the young men. Fisk begins to appreciate the code of honesty by which Michael lives just as Michael finds unexpected value in Fisk's many practical talents. This exchange of views is augmented by the fact that the novel alternates the first-person narration from both Michael's and Fisk's point of view. Yet in many episodes, their voices are difficult to distinguish, and this flaw marks the book's most notable weakness.
There is a knight, and there is a rogue, and they alternate narrating chapters, so we read Michael's side of the story and also have Fisk's take on events. Michael is a younger son of a nobleman who yearns for an adventurous life, so he fancies himself a knight errant. He joins up with a young con man, Fisk, and the two of them are quite a team. Their first adventure is freeing a woman from imprisonmentthey are told that she has been unjustly treated. This escape starts the story off with a lot of excitement. Just as they are successful, they learn they have been conned themselves, that the woman is a murderer who has killed her own husband. The excitement and action build as Michael and Fisk risk their own lives to right the wrong they have committed. Horses, witchcraft, castlesall the accoutrements of a medieval epicare part of Bell's intricate, intelligent story, told for amusement.
Longing for adventure, 18-year-old Sir Michael declares himself a knight errant (although the book has a medieval-era setting, no one has heard of such a thing in many years and the idea often gets him laughed at). Fisk, 17, is his indebted and unwilling squire. After rescuing Lady Ceciel from her prison tower, they learn that she is not a damsel in distress, but rather an accused murderess. Their attempts to bring her to justice result in her comeuppance and in the teens' tightly forged friendship that will clearly lead to further adventures. The novel is brimming with saved-by-a-hair escapades and fast-paced realistic action, told alternately from each teen's point of view. Their world is filled with "magica," a gift that allows its possessor to perform extraordinary tasks. In fact, while Michael and Fisk's bravery and wits frame their approach to the problems they incur, it is magica that enables them to escape their would-be dire fate. Nevertheless, the underlying messages could not be more real: the importance of truth, the value of friendship, and the need for staying true to oneself. Delivered skillfully, these ideas are sure to leave their mark on readers. Unusual and invented vocabulary is employed throughout. Like Bell's The Goblin Wood (2003) and The Wizard Test (2005, both HarperCollins), this well-created fantasy is a great read with worthwhile moral issues pertinent to its intended audience.
Nancy Menaldi-ScanlanCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Knights errant have been extinct for more than 200 years, but Sir Michael decides it is his chosen profession. With his trusty squire Fisk by his side, the two embark on their first assignment: Rescue a damsel in distress. After liberating the Lady Ceciel, Sir Michael and Fisk learn she was awaiting trial for allegedly poisoning her husband, Baron Mallory. Sir Michael's father Baron Seven Oaks becomes furious over the mix-up and demands that Sir Michael bring Lady Ceciel back for sentencing. Finding the illusive Lady Ceciel proves more difficult than expected, with the lady always one step ahead of them, slowing their progress. Eventually, Sir Michael is captured by Lady Ceciel and it's up to Fisk, a believer in non-violence, to rescue him. Their story unfolds alternately between them. The humorous dialogue and the friendship that develops between the two will make this magical medieval mystery a fun read with the ending open for a possible sequel. (Fiction. 12-14)