In this debut middle-grade historical novel, a boy works to bring the Magna Carta to reality in 13th-century England.
At harvest time in 1214, Taymor “Tay” Wallop, 14, is in a tough position. He’s inherited Swan Castle from his father, but the greedy King John is demanding an unaffordable inheritance tax and commandeering the stronghold’s harvest and farm animals. When Tay protests the unfairness of this, John gives him an out: get rid of the archbishop of Canterbury, who has offended the monarch by telling the country’s earls that the king must obey the law. As the brown son of a Syrian mother, Tay has already experienced discrimination, and fairness matters greatly to him. But if he doesn’t obey, the king will kill his father’s man at arms, Will, and Tay will lose Swan Castle. Early on his journey, Tay meets Archer, about 19, a talented bowman with a secret who’s been led by a dream to help the teen. Tay is impressed by the archbishop’s saintliness and can’t bear to kill him. Instead, the archbishop inspires Tay to embark on a mission to persuade the earls to support a new charter of fair play. Soon joined by Lucy, 12, who’s running from a forced marriage, Tay and Archer travel the country, hoping against hope to succeed. Though beset by dangers, Tay’s faith brings him—and the country’s leaders—to Runnymede for the historic signing of the Magna Carta. Useful information on history, places, and people plus a glossary are included. In her novel, Glass tells an exciting story of brave deeds and the transformation of a government, backed up by historical and cultural details that bring this long-ago world to life. The characters are well drawn, and it’s especially nice to see a person of color in a time period too often imagined as solely white. While Tay’s experience is bolstered by prayer, nonreligious readers can still respond to the universal appeal of fairness and cheer for those who risked all to bring it about.
An engaging, compelling tale whose relatable young hero’s adventures link to a nation’s destiny.