In the authors’ debut medieval fantasy, a newly established kingdom finds that it isn’t immune to the machinations of rival leaders.
After Prince Martin and his men help the kingdom of Knottwood defend itself from the Black Army, Knottwood’s King Richard agrees to give them land to build their own castle. Martin tries to peaceably inaugurate his new kingdom by trading with other peoples, including the nearby Vikings. But it isn’t long before King Richard learns that Martin lied to him about his royal lineage. Richard fuels his rage into war, and Martin gathers all the allies he can to combat his advancing army. McAlear and Sinko’s novel seems to be aimed at young-adult readers, with simple prose that concentrates less on description and more on an ever progressing plot; the Knottwood knights, for example, are engaged in conflict before Page 10. The story’s swift pace suits the character of Martin, who makes quick decisions even when not in battle; for example, when the Vikings demand gold in exchange for land, Martin quickly offers olive oil, which he shrewdly calls “magic oil.” Some characters are more one-dimensional, such as King Richard, whose physical description alone—unkempt hair, a shirt soiled from his last meal—marks him as a vile man. Numerous other characters, however, are well-rounded. Martin’s discussions with his friend Henry, the captain of his men, are often lighthearted and offer a nice contrast to the perpetual threat of aggression from all sides. Martin’s burgeoning relationship with a young girl named Elizabeth helps him learn patience and compassion, and her persistent barrage of questions is both exasperating and endearing. The story also clearly explains the mysterious Black Army; the evident animosity between Richard and his neighbor King Saxton; and the specific reasons that Martin and his followers abandoned their former kingdom. The knockout ending makes reading the next book almost a necessity.
A quick but endlessly diverting fantasy story.