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The Orphan King by S. Brouwer

Brouwer, Sigmund. The Orphan King. Merlin’s Immortals 1. Colorado: WaterBrook Press, 2012. Print.

This young adult fantasy novel is the story of a young man named Thomas. Thomas is raised as an orphan in a monastery run by greedy and corrupt monks who eat food and take money instead of helping others. This monastery is set in Northern England, during AD 1312, and Brouwer’s medieval world is portrayed as one filled with corruption and poverty, where select few are working to improve the lives of others and strive towards a greater good. These few work in secret, and are known as Merlin’s Immortals - a group of druids (including men and women of all trades) who remember the “old days” and seek to fulfill a prophecy of placing a boy on the throne of the castle of Magnus. Magnus is a fictional and supposedly impenetrable castle, ruled by a cruel and oppressive Lord that cannot be challenged.

Although Thomas is raised as an orphan, he is taught by a woman named Sarah, who is his mother in secret. Thomas spends much of his childhood learning knowledge from books Sarah keeps hidden from the rest of the world. These books are very valuable, and Thomas believes he was given this training and knowledge so that he may one day conquer Magnus. Thomas is not told, however, that his mother is one of the Immortals, and that he is key in a war between good and evil as the prophesied king.

After Sarah dies, Thomas decides to escape the monastery. Then, using science and visual tricks, he saves a knight, a beautiful mute girl, and a pickpocket from hanging in the nearby town, and enlists their help to take over the castle Magnus. To repay Thomas for saving their lives, the group decides to help him. During the journey to Magnus, William the knight mentors Thomas, the pickpocket Tiny John becomes like a brother to Thomas, and the mute girl Isabelle is revealed to be more than she seems. Thomas even falls a bit in love with her, and learns about respecting women. Conspiracy is around every corner, however, and no one is quite sure who is friend and who is foe. This remains true even after Thomas and his friends make it into the castle walls.

The Orphan King presents well-rounded characters and draws on the mythology of King Arthur and his wizard Merlin. Brouwer uses elevated language and the complicated plot moves very quickly and sometimes seems rushed. This may deter some younger readers. The book is told from multiple viewpoints, and is the first in a trilogy. Sigmund Brouwer is a Canadian author, and also writes evangelical books. There is also a strong undertone of faith and Christian religion in this story too, although it never overwhelms the plot. Complex themes also include objectification of women, conspiracy, death, and murder.

Recommended: 3 out of 4 stars
Reviewer: Colette Leung

Colette Leung is a graduate student at the University of Alberta, working in the fields of Library and Information science and Humanities Computing who loves reading, cats, and tea. Her research interests focus around how digital tools can be used to explore fields such as literature, language, and history in new and innovative ways.