The Secrets Of The Wild Woods (book 2) by Tonke Dragt (author/illustrator) and Laura Watkinson (translator) (book review).

November 6, 2015 | By | Reply More

‘The Secrets Of The Wild Woods’ is the second in a saga about the young boy called Tiuri. In ‘The Letter For The King’, he earned his knight’s spurs and this adventure follows on quite swiftly. Here, again, he is tested by his journey and does some growing up.

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Set in the mythical kingdom of Dagonaut, which is bordered by both friends and enemies, this is a classic quest novel with our heroes and villains clearly defined, although some of the supporting characters are more mysterious.

Tiuri is at home when the novel starts but is anxious to get on the move feel, perhaps feeling constricted by the rigorous structures of the castle life. Here, he is subject to the discipline of the knight’s life and his father. Our young Sir Tiuri enjoys riding his fine black horse Ardanwen and wants to go to Castle Ristridin as soon as possible. The knight errant Sir Ristridin issued an invite to Tiuri before his own mission into the Wild Woods but Tiuri is confident that Ristridin will return in the spring. Alongside Tiuri, rides his friend and squire the boy from the mountains, Piak.

When the travellers get to the castle which is actually home to Sir Arturin, Ristridin’s brother, they find him still absent and feared lost in the Wild Woods. Other knights are present and rumours of war send them in off in haste but Tiuri undertakes to attempt to find Sir Ristridin, even if it means going into the Wild Woods.

He is warned about the Men in Green and other terrors but nothing can truly prepare him for this adventure which will test him and his desire to be a knight errant. The adventures that follow also test his feeling for Lavinia, whom he met on his previous grand adventures as he encounters the mysterious Lady Isadoro, daughter to Sir Fitil. A coming of age sees Tiuri betrayed, captured and enchanted by a pretty face.

I felt this novel was slow to get going and seem to take an age before anything significant happened. The leisurely pace might turn off modern youngsters now who, like me, are impatient to get going with the adventure. I’m not sure what age group this might be aimed at and with the tendency to bracket books into age ghettos in bookshops, it will need to be sought out by a keen youngster. There is a good adventure in there with elements of a young King Arthur, Robin Hood and other myths fighting to get exposure although, again, I found it rather boy-centric with albeit a little nod and acknowledgments that this probably should not be the case. Written in the 1960s, there is sign of an emerging female agenda but not enough for the modern palate.

The hardback edition has beautifully illustrated maps inside the covers, which would make a lovely print. The illustrations are maps of the mythical world hand drawn in colour from Tonke Dragt’s original black and white maps and it is quite magical to think that these lands live in the head of the author. There are also some delightful black and white illustrations within the book drawn by the author.

If you can get past the slow start, ‘The Secrets Of The Wild Woods’ opens up into a sprawling adventure with many elements that are entertaining and highly visual. There are some quirky additional characters and the book even tackles betrayal and death which are quite strong subjects. Tiuri is a medieval chivalric character who bears comparison with Frodo in ‘The Hobbit’. He is given the characteristics of being a hero who is brave but scared, sometimes reckless and loyal to his friends. In other words, he is the best of us and does what we hope we would do if placed in similar situations. The only monsters in this book are other people.

Sue Davis

November 2015

(pub: Pushkins Childrens Books. 474 page illustrated hardback. Price: £16.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78269-061-0)

check out website: http://pushkinchildrens.com/

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Category: Books, Fantasy

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