Author: Lilli Thal
Release date: September 2005
Pulished by: Annick Press
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Reviewed by Nix as part of the translation month over at the Mostly Reading YA blog.
I love this book and wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone. This medieval fairytale was as charming as it was captivating. Prince Florin is lured to the enemy’s kingdom by a letter, supposedly from his father, telling him to come join in the celebrations for a successful peace treaty. Upon arrival, it becomes apparent that all is not as it seems and Florin is left speechless at the sight of his Father, and his fellow noblemen, in shackles. Theodo gives Florin to the Jester Mimus to train, with the threat of punishment for his father if he doesn’t comply with the twisted Kings demands. Over the coming months, Florin is humiliated, whipped and starved by his captor, but the seemingly grumpy Jester manages to keep him from severe harm. When Florins subjects infiltrate the castle, things start to look a little brighter for the little Mimus. Can he really escape the daily toil of life as a Jester and constant threat of execution, or will the rescue attempt fail and leave them all dead.
This book was beautifully written. However, the formal language can be quite tiresome and sometimes the endless descriptions slowed down the pace of the book a little too much. It took me a while to be sucked into the storyline, as the beginning is incredibly slow, but once it took off it was hard to put down. Mimus is a fabulously complex character whose motives, even after reading the book, I don’t fully understand. At first, he seems like a grumpy old man who simply didn’t want a young apprentice. As time went on, I began to wonder if he just didn’t want to see another young boy be subjected to the same fate as he was. Mimus worked Florin hard, but ultimately he stopped him being whipped. He stroked his head when he had nightmares and eventually helped him escape. Mimus sees a little boy on the path he is very familiar with. He needs to train him quickly in-order to help Florin avoid the hard lessons that he suffered. He isn’t a man with very many social skills, which makes him seem quite difficult at times, but he is a product of his isolated upbringing as a Jester. At times Florin does do things that the Jester struggles to cope with, but as a man used to being alone, having his fate depend on the behaviour of a small child irks him a little.
Florin is a wonderfully strong little boy. He survives by curbing his natural impulses to lash out and, quite simply, plays a very clever game. He gives Theodo exactly what he wants, no matter the price his pride takes, to keep his father safe and hope for eventual rescue. His fall in status is beautifully written, but he stayed as dignified as a Prince in his manners and attitude. Occasionally his adolescence got the better of him and he ends up in trouble (the worse being at the dungeon masters hands) but he learns fast and seems to grow up even faster. It broke my heart a little when reading the humiliation that a teenager had to suffer at the hands of a grown man. Overall, he grew from a boy into a man during the course of the story and the end narrative, telling of the nightmares that still plagued his nighttime hours, proved that no matter how unaffected he might have seemed during his ordeal, his time at the hands of Theodo left its mark.
This is a tale of a boy who is taken from his home and placed into the most humiliating servitude. The relationship that builds between him and the cantankerous Jester is borne of necessity, pity and loneliness. The ending shows that, although they were forced together, the result was a solid friendship that demanded unquestioning loyalty and self-sacrifice. I loved it – and I want to see the sequel (read it and you will see what I mean:D)