August 20, 2012

The Adventures of Sir Balin the Ill-Fated

THE ADVENTURES OF SIR BALIN THE ILL-FATED by Gerald Morris; Illustrated by Aaron Renier, (Houghton Mifflin, 2012)
GENRE: Adventure
AGE: 9 and up

Oh Sir Balin, you carry the heavy weight of destiny upon your noble shoulders. But can and should you trust the Old Woman of the Indeterminate Mountain's prophecy, especially when the Prophetess Guild's standards have been flagging of late? How much of destiny is predetermined? How much of your fate is really yours to control?

Gerald Morris, Arthurian scholar and author of The Squire's Tale series for younger readers, peppers his newest installment of the popular Knight's Tale series, The Adventures of Sir Balin the Ill-Fated, with these questions, but never to the detriment of good, irreverent fun. When an old woman makes a prophesy over Balin's cradle that he will become known as the noblest knight in the land, but that misfortune will follow in his wake, it colors his future, so much so that the prophecy becomes self-fulfilling. Then Annalise, The Questing Lady, and Balin's older brother, Sir Balan (their mother wanted a matched set), help Sir Balin see past the seemingly air-tight pattern of unfortunate events that comprise his knighthood to the possibility that his destiny is his to make.

Though the tale of Sir Balin has its roots traditional Arthurian tales, Morris's irreverent voice and colloquial dialogue bring the story galloping into the 21st century. With details that would be at home in a Monty Python sketch (there's a bit where various knights suggest ways of releasing a magical sword from it's scabbard - jiggling the hilt and bacon grease figure in), the general tone of silly fun is an excellent balance for Morris's age-appropriate ruminations on the nature of fate. Additionally leavened by Aaron Renier's clobberingly comedic illustrations, The Adventures of Sir Balin the Ill-Fated is a quick read and a serious, but not too serious, winner.

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