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The Accidental Highwayman is the first swashbuckling adventure for young adults by talented author and illustrator, Ben Tripp.
In eighteenth-century England, young Christopher "Kit" Bristol is the unwitting servant of notorious highwayman Whistling Jack. One dark night, Kit finds his master bleeding from a mortal wound, dons the man's riding cloak to seek help, and changes the course of his life forever. Mistaken for Whistling Jack and on the run from redcoats, Kit is catapulted into a world of magic and wonders he thought the stuff of fairy tales.
Bound by magical law, Kit takes up his master's quest to rescue a rebellious fairy princess from an arranged marriage to King George III of England. But his task is not an easy one, for Kit must contend with the feisty Princess Morgana, gobling attacks, and a magical map that portends his destiny: as a hanged man upon the gallows….
Fans of classic fairy-tale fantasies will find much to love in this irresistible YA debut by Ben Tripp, the son of one of America's most beloved illustrators, Wallace Tripp (Amelia Bedelia). Following in his father's footsteps, Ben has woven illustrations throughout the story.
"Delightful and charming. A swashbuckling adventure in the vein of Robert Louis Stevenson." #1 New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson
About the Author
Ben Tripp grew up in the US in a creative household of travelers and artists. He spent a year in England at age seven, followed by a year roaming throughout Europe in a VW camper van. He attended the Rhode Island School of Design for illustration and at the age of 22 he became the youngest show designer ever recruited by Disney to work at Walt Disney Imagineering. He is the author of the adult novels Rise Again, Rise Again: Below Zero, and Fifth Chamber of the Heart. The Accidental Highwayman is his first novel for young adults.
Read an Excerpt
A PROCLAMATION AT MARKET
I DROVE THE little cart into town on a fine June morning. It was a bright day, and the country round about was green and fresh—what I could see of it past the backside of Old Nell, the dappled mare. I had a neatly inked list of things to buy at market, just enough coppers to buy them with, and that was the extent of my cares.
Market days were one of the great delights of my life back then. I liked the company of the crowd. There’s nothing like mingling with a great many people to make solitude seem more pleasant. It was lonely at the Rattle Manse, where I was the only servant. My master, James Rattle, had no one else beneath his roof. It was but the two of us in the big, drafty house, excepting a bulldog named Demon, three horses, and some pigs. Even the pigs spent most of their time elsewhere, rooting for acorns in the dark woods thereabouts.
There was vanity involved, too—I might as well admit it. As a small boy I would have been proud to own a pair of shoes, so it felt very grand to go into town with brass buckles on my feet, commissioned to spend another man’s money. Forgive my pride: Respectability is like wine. It goes straight to the head of one who hasn’t had it before.
And besides, market days were entertaining. The entire market was like a big theater, every stall a stage, with the actors bellowing out their parts: “Two for a penny!” “A dozen for the price of ten!”
There were also people whose entire trade was entertainment for its own sake. Some were actors, and put on plays; others specialized in puppet shows, or displays of juggling, sword swallowing, gymnastic feats, and magic. In these performances I took special pleasure because I had, until recently, counted myself among the entertainers.
Before I took up service at the Rattle Manse, I had toured for several years with Trombonio’s Traveling Wonder Show as “The Infant Daredevil,” tramping the British Isles from one end to the other with a company of acrobats, clowns, and novelty acts, as well as Frieda the Tattooed Camel and an elderly baboon named Fred. My own role was that of trick horse-rider. I would spur my mount to a gallop and then dance about on its back, dangle from the stirrups, perform hand-springs, and generally risk death. The act became second nature and I seldom met with accidents, but when I did fall off, the crowds liked it all the better.
It was this trick-riding that had caught the eye of Master Rattle. He had attended a performance by the Wonder Show, and later that night, played cards with Mr. Fortescue Trombonio (birth name Gilbert Tubbins). Neither of them having much money, Master Rattle staked his fine sword, and Mr. Trombonio my documents of indenture. So it was, with a flourish of kings, I entered my present service.
The troupe had since been disbanded, and a number of its cast members transported to America for recidivism*, but I often ran into old acquaintances on market days, and it was pleasant to hear the news of life on the road. Although I was deeply grateful for my rescue from Mr. Trombonio, the monotony of my new life chafed me. I was bored.
Before allowing myself liberty to see the entertainers, however, I went around the stalls and bought up my list. I haggled and complained and judged the merchandise in the usual way. Then, having fed Old Nell some new oats, I went off in search of any past friends from the road.
They were mostly pitched around the edges of the marketplace, so they wouldn’t have to compete with the lusty cries of the merchants. There was a Hindoo snake charmer I knew, and a magician whose specialty was causing live pigeons to fly out of meat pies. Then, to my delight, I discovered one of my fellow troupers from the Trombonio days. She now toured with a team of juggling clowns as Lily, the high-rope dancer. I remembered the clowns, Trombonio’s Traveling Wonder Show having spent some weeks on the road with them between St. Bees and Pontefract when I was seven or eight years old.
“It’s a pleasure to see you out and about,” I said, once Lily’s squeals of greeting had subsided. “There were rumors you’d been sent up for robbing a cheese shop.”
“Oh, you know how it is. Someone catches you halfway through a window and they ’meejitly think the worst. But look at you! You’re a grown man now. How old must you be?”
“Ten and six,” said I, a little proudly, as if it were an achievement such as learning Latin.
“Sixteen years!” Lily exclaimed, tossing her yellow curls and pinching my cheek. “Old enough to marry!” She had often made fun of me in this way when I was small, and boxed my ears, too, though when her romantic entanglements inevitably failed after a fortnight or so, she would weep on my neck and kiss my brow and tell me men were cruel and I was her only friend. Now she held me at arm’s length and looked me over.
“I remember when you was but a stripling lad, only as high as your own knee. Fresh-bought from the workhouse by Old Trombonio, God rest his soul. You were a tiny thing, and always hungry, but nimble as a monkey. Look at you now! If I wasn’t engaged to that Pierrot over there with the white skin-cap on, I’d take an interest in you myself—such a handsome fellow with a fine suit of clothes and a purse at your belt! Whence,” she added, “came you by the money?”
This last she whispered sideways, as if it were a secret.
“I’m servant in a good house,” I replied, proudly. “The only servant.”
“The only servant? Taking care of a fine family?” Lily didn’t seem to believe me.
“Just the master and myself,” I explained.
“No scullery girls to warm your heart, then? You haven’t got a sweetheart, in a manner of speaking?”
I blushed furiously and denied any such thing.
But she didn’t much care about my personal life, for the subject of the household swiftly returned. “Your master must be away most of the time, to keep such a small staff. A fine big house, and you all alone in it?”
I couldn’t quite understand the line of questioning, but Lily’s purpose soon became clear. She continued to alternate between teasing me and pressing for details about Master Rattle and the general disposition of the house, the quality of its furniture, and how much valuable metal it contained. I kept answering her from vanity, when I might better have been silent from prudence.
“He wouldn’t miss a few odds and ends, I dare say,” Lily muttered, and at last I plainly saw her intent. I should have guessed from the start—in my years with traveling performers I’d come to know their desperate poverty, and how often some of them took opportunity to supplement their incomes by way of a back door or an open window.
I hastily made amends. “My master is a gentleman,” I said. “But he hasn’t anything of worth, being the third son of a lord; just the Manse, which is halfway to tumbling down, and a lot of old stuff that’s been in it for centuries, not worth the price of a cart to take it away in, I expect. Besides, what he has—he gambles away.”
“Ooh, he’s a bit of a rake, is he?” Lily asked, and batted her pale eyelashes fit to start a breeze.
“I don’t know a thing about his life outside the Manse, I confess,” said I, truthfully. “He keeps little enough money.” The calculating look was still in Lily’s eye, so I added, “One thing he keeps very well, though, is a bulldog named Demon.”
“Ah,” said Lily, and looked about her as if the animal might leap out at her in the next instant. “Vicious, is he? Jaws like a trap?”
“He can snap a bone with one bite,” I said.
This was perfectly true. I did not lie about the dog, who was Master Rattle’s constant companion, but rather omitted a few details: he was a French bulldog, a tiny beast bred not to fight bulls but to snore lustily, and he could snap a bone with one bite, but only a ham bone. In fact, he spent all of his waking moments, which amounted to about an hour each day, gnawing on bones.
The mention of Demon put an end to my old acquaintance’s speculations, and after that we had a pleasant chat about doings upon the traveling circuit. Just as Lily was becoming tearful, relating a tragic romance she had recently endured, there came a commotion at the far end of the market square, which drew steadily nearer.
It was a squad of red-coated soldiers with white pipe-clayed crossbelts and gleaming bayonets. They marched through the crowd led by an officer mounted upon a fine brown horse. The town crier followed, carrying his big brass bell. The soldiers halted before the town notice board. The crier mounted the step at the foot of the board, rang his bell, and unfolded a piece of parchment. I took my leave of Lily and pressed through the crowd for a better look. I was grateful for an excuse to avoid further questions about my master, and also to escape being wept upon and kissed, especially by an older woman. Lily was at least twenty-four.
“Oyez, oyez!” the crier shouted, in the traditional way. “Oyez.” The sellers stopped shouting long enough to see if his proclamation would affect their business.
“Be it known,” the crier began, reading from the parchment. “A proclamation by His Majesty King George the Second*: Whereas bandits and highwaymen are flourishing upon our roads, and prey upon rich carriages, royal emissaries, mail coaches, and travelers well-to-do, inflicting their brutal and dastardly crimes upon the innocent, be it known that we have set upon the heads of all who pursue this vile profession a bounty of forty guineas, five shillings, thruppence ha’penny.”
A gasp went up in the crowd, followed by a buzz of conversation. That was a great deal of money. One shilling would buy a pound of good soap, although nobody in that fragrant crowd, I thought, would be interested in a pound of soap. Three pennies was enough to have a tooth pulled. A ha’penny would buy a day-old bun. I did the calculation in my head and determined that with such a sum, I could get very clean, visit a dentist, and still retain enough money for two years’ paid holiday and a stale bun.
The crier rang his bell again to quell the commotion, and the captain shouted threats from the vantage of his horse until the crowd quieted down.
As soon as there was any chance he would be heard, the crier continued. “Oyez, oyez, oyez! A list of villains is attached herewith, including Giant Jim and his gang, the Spanish Desperado, Dick Sculley, Sailor Tom, the Laughing Priest, Whistling Jack, and Milliner Mulligan, among others. Once convicted, they shall be hanged by the necks at Tyburn Tree. All such bandits in living or dead condition shall be presented to the magistrate of the court for inspection, et cetera et cetera. There’s a good deal more to this ’ere proclamation, but that’s the gist of the matter. Particulars shall be posted on this notice board. Given at our Court at St. James, this day in the year of our Lord et cetera and so on, God save the King!”
And with that, the soldiers recommenced their march behind the officer’s splendid horse, and the crier made his way directly to a beer seller, his throat being sorely parched by the crying. The crowd closed back up and the mongers began shouting again.
I had one more errand before returning to the Manse, and took my time about it. The King’s proclamation had put me in an introspective mood. I’ll relay my thoughts, and how they returned to the matter of the highwaymen; bear with me a while.
My own childhood had been more like that of the highwayman than the major domo, and it was a great surprise to me to find that, after an interval of respectable stability, I pined for excitement again. My life was secure and comfortable now, yet days at the Manse felt like an endless rainy afternoon, and me stuck indoors. The mood was not mine alone: My master had become increasingly like a caged tiger in the last few weeks. He would lounge abed until afternoon many days, then spring up in a fit of energy and meet me in the kitchen yard with rapier and sabers. In these contests he fought with thrice the conviction I did, with the consequence that I became as skilled at defense as he was at offense.
He also spent hours pacing irritably from one end of the Manse to the other, smoking his churchwarden pipe and looking out of the windows as if expecting someone to visit. But no one ever did. He read books about coach-making and studied maps; he took me out hunting and shot no game, but rode his great black horse over every terrain like a madman with the devil at his back, myself trailing along behind on a gray hunter with similar skill but more care, determined not to break my neck.
Sometimes he would stop at a particular crossroads or other isolated spot and study the lay of the land with infinite care, I knew not why. I had begun to understand that my master, as much as I, felt trapped—myself by idleness, and him by some unknown business that worried him.
But here my musings ended, for my steps had taken me to the Widow’s Arms.
Copyright © 2014 by Ben Tripp
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In eighteenth century Christopher "Kit" Bristol thinks he has finally found legitimate and respectable work as a gentleman's gentleman. Yes, he sometimes misses his dramatic life working in a traveling show. Of course riding an old mare into town for errands can't compare to riding a fine horse in a ring for trick spectacles. But Kit has left that life behind. He is a servant now with stable work in a lovely manor. It matters little that the manor is largely on the brink of falling apart. Unfortunately, Kit's visions of grandeur and legitimacy are rudely shattered one night when he learns that his master's odd habits are hiding a secret. Kit has unknowingly been working for Whistling Jack--a notorious highwayman who is wanted by both the authorities and other, far more dangerous, foes. In a fit of loyalty, Kit dons his master's clothes hoping to buy Whistling Jack precious time after the highwayman is gravely injured. The deed is futile. It also drags Kit into the middle of his master's unfinished quest--a fantastical mission that Kit is ill-prepared to complete. Tasked with stopping the marriage of King George III to a fairy princess named Morgana, Kit will have to plumb the depths of his ingenuity and search for unlikely allies if he hopes to survive let alone succeed in The Accidental Highwayman: Being the Tale of Kit Bristol, His Horse Midnight, a Mysterious Princess, and Sundry Magical Persons Besides (2014) by Ben Tripp. The Accidental Highwayman is Tripp's first novel for young adults. It also includes delightful illustrations by the author. This book is an enjoyable fantasy romp complete with fairies, goblings (not to be confused with goblins!) and a fair bit of whimsy. Tripp does an excellent job of combing a historical fiction sensibility with a fantasy story to create a new type of fairytale with an 18th century background. Tripp's illustrations also add to the playful quality of the story. Although sometimes predictable, The Accidental Highwayman is a solid fantasy adventure that will appeal to readers looking for action as much as they are humor or romance. This rollicking story is but the first in an anticipated series that promises numerous adventures for both Kit and Morgana. Possible Pairings: Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, Stardust by Neil Gaiman, The Princess Bride by William Goldman, The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy, Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynn Jones, Enchanted by Alethea Kontis, A Well-Timed Enchantment by Vivian Vande Velde, Candide by Voltaire, Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede
My high school students still ask if our library has these books; that's just how popular and beloved they are by young readers. Now, Disney-Hyperion has released a paperback three-book boxed set. Complete with The Lost Hero, The Son of Neptune, and The Mark of Athena, readers can now have a beautiful collector's set of their favorite novels in easier to handle paperback copies.
What a delightful read! The innocent servant thrust into the role a famed highwayman. Trying to save the damsel in distress. Not having a clue as to what is really going on until he's in the thick of it. Clever characters. Good writing. Great surprises. All in all--a good time was had by all. Most certainly by me! I look forward to the next adventure.
The fact that this book is described as a book for fans of The Princess Bride, was a reason why I couldn’t pass it up! I loved The Princess Bride! But can we first talk about this title? It is crazy long! So for the duration of this review, let’s just call it The Accidental Highwayman, shall we? The Accidental Highwayman by Ben Tripp took me on an adventure, that is for darn sure. Main character, Kit Bristol, was found by one James Rattle while performing at the circus. He takes him into his home, and makes him his servant. But apart from answering to his master’s beck and call, James Rattle teaches him skills that will serve him well. Skills such as defending himself and becoming a proficient swordsman. Kit doesn’t question his master’s nightly excursions and stands up for him when others in the village inquire about it. But one night, he hears a ruckus in his home and finds his master severely injured who reveals his secret…that he is the sought after highwayman Whistling Jack, and not too far behind him is the villain of the story, Captain Sterne, who ends up being the thorn in Kit’s side. Kit must keep up the ruse that his master is well and resting. Somehow, Kit accidently becomes the sought after highwayman, and his adventure begins! His travels lead him to a witch that tells him that it is now up to him to complete the quest that his master could not finish, as stated in magic law… a quest that includes a beautiful faerie princess (Princess Morgana) who is betrothed to a human king. As the story unfolds, the lives of Morgana and Kit are both on the line…with Redcoats out to take down Whistling Jack (aka Kit), goblins, and dark fae, there is never a dull moment. What I enjoyed the most about this book was the humour. It was everywhere in this books! Whether it’s found in the interaction between Kit and Morgana, to the crazy uncle you come across in the story, to the rebel faeries who help our twosome along the way. Even the evil Captain Sterne had his moments. It totally reminded me of the humour in The Princess Bride, but I also couldn’t help but have Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean pop in my head as well. Most of the story in The Accidental Highwayman by Ben Tripp was go, go go. One interaction closes and another incident opens up. It was the action and adventure in the story that kept me going. I will admit that there were times where the story slowed right down, and my attention was lost. It also frustrated me that Kit and Morgana had no idea how they felt about each other, even though it is so very obvious. I guess that’s an attraction for some readers, but for me, I couldn’t wrap my head around it. It was so obvious! There’s a reason someone gets jealous…why are you second guessing your feelings? Because of some of the words or terms used in the book are from long ago, I liked that the author included footnotes to help the reader understand what is being said. I think if it weren’t for that, I would have been more lost. It also provided some interesting facts that make you go “hmmmm! I didn’t know that!” In fact, I’m pretty sure I said that exact phrase a few times while reading those footnotes. But on the other side of that spectrum, I was a little annoyed to have to stop what I’m reading to jump down to the footnote to find out what’s being said. At times, it would take away from the momentum of my reading experience. What intrigued me at first was the author’s note in the beginning where the inspiration of the story came from…a chest belonging to an ancestor that hadn’t been opened in 150 years. Low and behold, the key for this chest is found in some random box of knickknacks with the discovery of old documents…and a story is born. What a great conversation starter. Absolutely fans of The Princess Bride will love this book, as well as fans of the humour in Pirates of the Caribbean. If you’re looking for a book that will have you chuckling, while enjoying an adventure with unforgettable characters, The Accidental Highwayman by Ben Tripp is one read you won’t want to pass up.
The Accidental Highwayman is so fun! It's not a book where I'm sitting on the edge of my seating panicking over the fate of these characters, it's a book where I'm just having fun reading it. The plot is fun, the characters - major and minor - are fun. Kit is an excellent hero that you cannot help but root for. He finds himself in this situation purely by attempted to help is master/boss. He goes from an ordinary life of fetching beer and provisions to helping a fairy princess escape a political marriage she does not want. Aside from Kit, I truly enjoy the minor characters, especially Willum and Gruntle. Freed by Princess Morgana, they stay to protect her as they are the only two members of the rebel Faerie army and they adore her. They are also very true to their orders when given them, which causes a bit of an issue here and there, but they're rather amusing. The dialogue of some of the characters was a bit hard to get used to as they talk in an old fashioned dialect. Luckily this only applied to a few minor characters so it wasn't a huge distraction, but it did pull me out of certain scenes as I tried to figure out exactly what they were saying. The plot is interesting, but there is also a lot of info-dumping, which dragged it out a bit. I did find it enjoyable that "the editor," Ben himself, would add definitions here and there to words we as readers would be unfamiliar with. Ben introduces the novel as a story he found in a family truck that had been locked for years. This antidote adds something to the story. It makes it more than just an adventure of Kit Bristol, but an account of sorts. Despite the fantasy angle, it adds a sense of realism. The illustrations are definitely enjoyable and some of my favorite aspects to the novel. It was almost as if while writing down the story, he stopped to doodle in the margins. They enhanced my reading experience and occasionally I found myself pausing in the reading to skim pages in search of these drawing. The full pages drawings were amazing to look at and I loved taking in their details. While I did have a few issues with some of the dialogue and info dumping, I found The Accidental Highwayman an enjoyable read. The book is marketed as being in the vein of The Princess Bride and, while in my mind,nothing is comparable to the magic of Goldman, I easily saw the similarities. If you're in the mood for a story full of action, adventure, witty comments, and swashbuckling moments you definitely want to pick up The Accidental Highwayman: Being the Tale of Kit Bristol, His Horse Midnight, a Mysterious Princess, and Sundry Magical Persons Besides.