THE PLAYER KING, by Avi, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Oct. 17, 2017, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 8-12)
I will never forget the first book I read by Avi — The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle. I was 10 when the book came out, and I still have my copy. Since then, I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for the author, though I tend to gravitate toward his historical fiction. That is why I was excited to read his latest novel, The Player King.
The Player King is based on the true story of a young boy who was pulled from the streets and trained to become the king of England.
The year is 1486, and King Henry VII has just ascended the English throne. Prince Edward should be the next king, but he seems to have disappeared. The circumstances are questionable, but most accept their new king and move on.
Most but not all.
You see, there’s a kitchen boy named Lambert Simnel working in a tavern in Oxford, and according to a friar by the name of Brother Simonds, he’s anything but a kitchen boy. Brother Simonds buys Lambert from the tavern keeper and reveals to the boy his true destiny. Lambert is none other than the lost Prince Edward, the true king of England.
Lambert highly doubts this revelation, but sees no reason to not become Edward. Under the tutelage of Brother Simonds, Lambert starts to believe he really is the lost prince. Being a prince and becoming a king are two different things, though, and Lambert quickly learns the path to the throne is more dangerous than he could have ever imagined.
Told from Lambert’s point of view, The Player King immediately takes on a sense of immediacy. You truly get a sense of why Lambert would follow such a path. Since the story is being told by Lambert, the historical/political aspects are paired down and a lot easier to swallow. In fact, this book is more about the person than the events, which is what makes it shine.
Short chapters and Avi’s clean prose make for a fast read. And the added excitement of mystery, sword fighting and battles make The Player King come alive. It’s easy as a reader to become so swept up in Lambert’s story that you keep reading straight through to the end.
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