A hybrid between a novel and a comic, this quirky tale has everything you’d want from a children’s medieval adventure story. It has fearsome monsters, epic quests, sorcery and magic, and more, all bound together with a self-aware, self-referential eye and a generous dose of humor.
Pre-teen Max tours the countryside with his uncle Sir Budrick. Despite the title attached to his name, Max’s uncle decided years ago that he didn’t want to be a knight and, instead, ran away to become a wandering troubadour. Max, on the other hand, has no interest in the troubadour life and dreams of one day becoming a knight.
Upon entering the kingdom of Byjovia, Sir Budrick is taken by the evil King Gastley, and it’s up to Max, along with a merry band of misfits, to rescue him from certain doom. There’s Kevyn, the bookworm and aspiring poet, and Simon and Millie, the poor street children whom Max helps to rescue from Gastley’s wrath. Together, along with help from Mumblin, the inept magician, they set out to save Uncle Budrick and then, hopefully, the entire kingdom. They’re not quite knights yet, but they’re halfway there. They’re Midknights.
Author Lincoln Peirce is also the creator of the newspaper comic, Big Nate. If you’re familiar with the strip, then you have a pretty good idea of what this book is like. It’s very silly and weird, a bit sarcastic at times, but always good fun. The main characters, Max in particular, have a great knack for getting themselves into trouble, but also have just enough smarts to get themselves out of trouble again. Of course, the troubles the Midknights face include gargoyles, evil sorceresses, zombies, and dragons, among other things.
Underneath the silliness, the story is very well-crafted. A fairly quick read, it moves swiftly from one adventure or obstacle to the next, many of them seemingly unrelated; however, as the story progresses, it becomes increasingly clear that everything is connected, and a number of apparent throwaway characters and references turn out to play an important part in the rather intricate plot.
This book is filled with great adventure. Kids will no doubt love it, and adults will enjoy it, too. It’s a great story that never drags and always has something unique and fun to offer. And at its core, there’s the message that no matter who you are or what society expects of you, you can do and be whatever you want, with a bit of hard work and ingenuity—along with a group of friends to rely on for support. All in all, I highly recommend Max & the Midknights, both to the young and the young at heart.
Creative Team: Lincoln Pierce (author and illustrator)
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
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