From established author Kathryn Erskine comes a story full of adventure and heart. Set in Medieval Times, The Badger Knight is about the small and sickly twelve-year-old Adrian, who wants to become apprenticed for war. The style created both a sympathetic character and authentic setting for me. My main disappointment in this epic tale lay in reaching the end.
Being a fan of Erskine I have not only read almost all of her earlier novels, but also remain impressed with how easily she seems to develop the narrator’s voice. In The Badger Knight, phrases like “his horse’s piss steam the air” feel appropriate to the male way of expression. When Adrian writes about panting, stumbling, and needing time for air to return to his lungs, I believe that he has asthma. Moreover, I feel empathy for him, because of how he portrays himself as not a devil or an angel, but “Underneath my odd-looking outside I’m just me.” Adrian then proceeds to declare he is just a boy—“well, almost a man. They’ll see”. In doing so, I also gain insight into the depth of his struggles to be accepted by his peers, neighbors, relatives, and father.
Through Adrian’s unique voice, the setting also comes to life. Adrian writes of how events of the time impacted him. For example, not only did the plague take his mother and sister, but his aunt feels that the plague should have taken Adrian too because he’s so useless. Inspired by the plague, which cost the village one-third of its residents, Adrian finds his call in life. He wants to be an archer and serve in the war between the English and the Scots. Adrian’s choice of words and even his curses well befits the times being portrayed: addlepated, ox’s ass, pittance, God’s bones. Finally, there’s the religious atmosphere, which again we see through Adrian’s perspective. For instance, there’s the debate by villagers over whether his stature and albinism are a good omen or a sign that he’s of the devil.
Many times while reading The Badger Knight, I found myself thinking about The Chronicles of Prydain. The series follows Taran as he nears manhood while helping to resist the forces of Arawn Death-Lord. While an obvious difference exists in genre, with the first being historical fiction and the latter being fantasy, they share a commonality when it comes to character and setting. Both characters desire to partake in more meaningful tasks, in that Adrian wishes to do more than collect goose feathers, while Taran wishes to do more than watch pigs. Both also live in a time of war and believe that the way to heroism is to fight in battle. In that I have compared The Badger Knight to one of my favorite series, I obviously like the tale. My only disappointment is that I feel, unlike with The Chronicles of Prydain, the main character needed more time to realistically change. I would have appreciate even another one hundred pages dedicated to showing how Adrian learns that heroism often lays outside of war.
Whenever a novel from Kathyn Erskine comes my way, I know that I’m in for a delightful reading week. The Badger Knight features an engaging style, unique main character, and a setting with relevance to our modern world. I would expect no less from Erskine.
My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.
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