The English translation of a prizewinning 1962 Dutch historical adventure exhibits both old-school charms and flaws.
On the eve of his knighting, 16-year-old Tiuri abandons his vigil to answer an old man’s desperate plea. When the knight he seeks is murdered, Tiuri is charged with the delivery of a secret message determining the fate of kingdoms, and so begins a quest rich in chivalry, daring, and deadly peril. Brave, honorable, and earnest, Tiuri’s personality is matched by the straightforward prose, which meticulously chronicles every step of his journey in a meandering, episodic narrative. While encountering every make and manner of man (female characters barely exist in this world), Tiuri appears capable of judging the disposition of each at a glance, a feat made less remarkable when nearly everyone goes out of his or her way to be friendly and helpful, and the few villainous exceptions act with either inexplicable generosity or ludicrous incompetence. In stark contrast to current tropes, Tiuri’s mission at the end plays only a minor role in the greater conflict of nations, the outcome of which is never addressed. Tiuri himself returns home to pick up his life precisely where he left off, richer in experience but with his character fundamentally unaltered.
Short chapters and frequent mild cliffhangers make this suitable for a middle-grade classroom read-aloud; but there’s little here to captivate a 21st-century reader. (Historical adventure. 10-15)