Monday, October 29, 2012

The Orphan King

Sigmund Brouwer’s story, The Orphan King, follows a classic storyline: a young, unassuming (and mistreated) orphan who possesses latent heroic qualities reluctantly starts a quest; he is, unbeknownst to all but a few, the king’s lost heir; a cast of likable and loyal characters join him on his adventure, which is plagued by malevolent forces bent on keeping his destiny secret; and a final, seemingly hopeless, confrontation between good and evil takes place.

In the case of this story, the hero is named Thomas. As the story begins, Thomas mourns the death of his nurse mate, who has educated him in languages, writing, strategy, and other advanced knowledge. Although her premature death has left him somewhat unprepared to face the world, Thomas scours up his courage and escapes the corrupt monks who work him like a slave. All he leaves behind is a hidden cave filled with secret books.

Though he sets out on his own to complete the task his nurse mate has given him (to retake the unconquerable castle of Magnus), a knight, a young thief, and a beautiful girl soon join him. On the way, Thomas must use his skills and cunning to survive. Plus, he must determine whom he can trust… and who, in the end, will betray him.

With strongly written descriptions and well-developed characters, Brouwer weaves an interesting tale that will appeal to lovers of the fantasy genre. Readers will find druids, castles, knights, and more! In addition, Brouwer highlights Thomas’ inner struggle with a question no doubt many readers have pondered: Why do bad things happen to good people?

The Orphan King is book one in the Merlin’s Immortals series.

What I Like: I liked the way Thomas tackled his problems. He didn’t whine or ask “why me” or wallow in pity. Instead he knuckled down, did his best, and made no excuses for the outcome. Though the plot was somewhat predictable, Brouwer used his skills to give it his own unique angle. I also enjoyed the cover art.

What I Dislike: At times I felt like the book assumed a more intimate familiarity with the story (setting, political climate, driving forces) than I possessed. It seemed almost as if it were the second or third book in a series. One explanation for this I have heard is that The Orphan King carries echoes of another well-loved, 8-book series written by Brouwer called Wings of Light. (Wings of Dawn might be the first book in that series.) Some sources assert that this is a YA remake of that story. I am curious to read this other series to see if that’s true or not. I also failed to see any connection to immortals in the book. Perhaps this is another part of the assumed knowledge of the series that I lack since I am not familiar with Brouwer’s other work.

Overall Rating: Excellent to very good, depending on how much background knowledge you possess about this particular medieval world.

Age Appeal: Ages 12 and up

Publisher Info: WaterBrook PRess, 2012; ISBN: 978-1400071548; Paperback, 224 pgs., $7.99.

Buy it Now at Christianbook.com for $6.29
OR Buy it at Amazon.com for $7.99.

Special Info: Brouwer has written a large number of books for both children and adults. He has a series called Robot Wars, which is geared for kids ages 10 and up. The first book is called Death Trap and the second is called Double Cross. There are five total books in this series. For ages 8 and up, Brouwer offers The Accidental Detectives series with at least 10 books that I could find. The Volcano of Doom is the first book there. Electronic lovers ages 10 and up might enjoy Brouwer's book CyberQuest: The Complete Virtual Adventure.

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2 comments:

Kathy C. said...

Wings of Light was a good set that I read to my 5th/6th graders when I was teaching in 1989. It's out of print and a few years ago when I checked, hard to get. I used to read fantasy but my interests have changed and I read Christian suspense.

Lori Z. Scott said...

I have heard very good things about other series by Brouwer. I will probably be looking for a few of his titles next time I'm at the bookstore or library.