(Advance Reader Copy)
After the great plague, Adrian's father is overly protective. Having lost his wife and daughter, he is determined to protect his12-year-old son, Adrian. Small and weak, Adrian has what we now call asthma and albinism. In the rural England of the 1300s, however, his condition is more often considered an unlucky and unholy affliction - rendering him only slightly more popular than Thomas the leper. Though he is quick of mind, skillful with a bow, and able to scribe, he is nonetheless treated as useless and dim-witted.
When the Middle March is threatened by war with the Scots, Adrian sees a chance to prove his mettle,
"Soon I hear the blacksmith's voice in my head: Nock! Mark! Draw! Loose! I spread some dirt under my eyes to counteract the bright sun, close my left eye, ready my bow, and take aim at a single leaf fifty feet away. On my second shot I split the leaf in two. As I practice more, I can hit a leaf on my first try, even when it sways in the breeze. I lose all sense of time and feel like I'm in another world.
Until I hear someone approach through the woods, and I grab my arrows, stowing them quickly with my bow inside the tree trunk. For years I haven't been discovered and I don't intend for anyone to find me out now. When the time is right, I will shock them all. So I stand and look up at the branches to divert attention away from the trunk and to show that I'm simply addlepated Adrian looking at birds."
The Badger Knight is a historical fiction adventure that touches upon many common themes (bullying, friendship, gender bias, coming of age, survival, the nature of good and evil) as Adrian goes off to war and becomes a man - not by might, but by right.
"... I'm reminded of Nigel and his search for the truth. I think of what I always believed to be truths — Scots are pagans, thieves are bad, knights are noble, girls are weak, war is glorious — and how these "truths" aren't real at all. They're things I was taught or everyone believes, just as all people who look like me are supposedly angels or, more often, devils. I didn't believe Nigel when he said that scribing was power, that seeking the truth and sharing it is mightier than being a soldier.
Now I see what he means."
The Knight Badger is rich in historical details - from the minor particulars of everyday life and the societal hierarchy of medieval England to the gruesome manner of medieval warfare. Erskine offers an unvarnished look into the lives of serfs, tradesmen, religious leaders, free lances, city street urchins, and robber barons. The author's thoughts on the nature of war are on display throughout, but readers are encouraged to come to their own conclusions and examine their own biases.
A solid adventure story that should appeal to boys and girls. There is room for a sequel.
On shelves 8/26/14. Target audience: ages 8-12, Gr 3-7