|The Accidental Highwayman
Being the Tale of Kit Bristol, His Horse Midnight, A Mysterious Princess, and Sundry Magical Persons Besides
4 / 5
This story contains nearly as many dark deeds, treacherous villains, and acts of violence as one might expect to find in a typical morning newspaper. In addition, there is a significant emphasis on heathen magic and demoniacal doings. I cannot recommend that anyone read it."
The Accidental Highwayman is the first swashbuckling adventure for young adults by talented author and illustrator, Ben Tripp. This thrilling tale of dark magic and true love is the perfect story for fans of William Goldman’s The Princess Bride.
In eighteenth-century England, young Christopher “Kit” Bristol is the unwitting servant of notorious highwayman Whistling Jack. One dark night, Kit finds his master bleeding from a mortal wound, dons the man’s riding cloak to seek help, and changes the course of his life forever. Mistaken for Whistling Jack and on the run from redcoats, Kit is catapulted into a world of magic and wonders he thought the stuff of fairy tales.
Bound by magical law, Kit takes up his master’s quest to rescue a rebellious fairy princess from an arranged marriage to King George III of England. But his task is not an easy one, for Kit must contend with the feisty Princess Morgana, gobling attacks, and a magical map that portends his destiny: as a hanged man upon the gallows….
Fans of classic fairy-tale fantasies such as Stardust by Neil Gaiman and The Princess Bride will find much to love in this irresistible YA debut by Ben Tripp, the son of one of America’s most beloved illustrators, Wallace Tripp (Amelia Bedelia). Following in his father’s footsteps, Ben has woven illustrations throughout the story.
Too often, I have been enticed into reading a book because of its kind comparisons to other books or authors I've loved. Too often, I've been disappointed by these same books that I went into with such high hopes. I am pleased to say that was NOT the case with this lovely little gem of a book. It rightly deserves its place in between The Princess Bride and Stardust on your bookshelf - the jacket copy couldn't have been more spot-on with this one.
Charming and guileless Kit Bristol begins his tumultuous journey unexpectedly, when he finds his master senseless, sprawled across the kitchen table. On the brink of death, Kit's master reveals his secret identity, and innocent Kit, thinking only to help his beloved employer, takes up the dangerous mantle. From there, his life is forever changed, as he encounters no end of magical folk and bright characters.
I loved the sweetness and innocence of this book; there wasn't an evil bone in Kit's body, which meant that he was selfless and wanted only good things for all of his friends. It felt like a true fairy tale. This story wasn't made for complexity; evil is evil and good is good, simple as that. But don't misunderstand me: it's also a very complex, involved, and creatively spun yarn. You won't want to put it down.
I think one of my favorite parts was the footnotes in the book, both when they were silly and (very cool) when they were explaining an archaic word to the reader. The author - who, by the way, earns even more esteem in my eyes because he is the son of the illustrator of the Amelia Bedelia books! - does a wonderful job of keeping the story "period" while not losing his reader. He explains without being overbearing; he acts as the "translator" for the reader, as he claims to have discovered the manuscript in an old, long-locked chest in a family attic.
Tripp certainly has his father's illustration chops: the book is peppered throughout with everything from small sidebar illustrations to full-page graphics which depict some of the more enthralling parts of the story. I would love to see this book in its fully finished form; I look forward to its release so I can check it out!
I'd recommend this as bedtime story reading for anyone with a big imagination, who loves to laugh and yearns for adventure. Does Kit get the princess in the end? You'll have to see for yourself! (And I guarantee you'll be pleased with the unlikely ending.)
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