________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 37. . . .May 24, 2013


The Beggar King.

Michelle Barker.
Saskatoon, SK: Thistledown Press, 2013.
269 pp., trade pbk. & EPUB, $15.95 (pbk).
ISBN 978-1-927068-37-3 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-927068-50-2 (EPUB).

Grades 8 and up / Ages 13 and up.

Review by Ronald Hore.

***½ /4



“If yer lucky,” cried Mama Petsane, waving her wooden stew spoon at him. “Don’t bring any love potions, neither. Feed ‘em to the goats. Maybe they’ll stop nipping at yer backside.”

Jordan’s face coloured. It had been a few years since he’d concocted those potions, but he didn’t realize anyone had known about them. Then again, Mama Petsane was one of the Seven Seers of Cir. The seers knew everything, and they were especially protective of their adopted daughter. The last thing Jordan wanted was for Ophira to hear about his childish experiments. He’d been hoping she might come outside to watch him jump the roofs, but now, with Mama Petsane here, he was rethinking that plan. Mama Petsane was bound to embarrass him.

Pulling up his feast robes to free his legs, Jordan set off at a run and leaped on to a neighbourhood roof several feet away. He received the shriek he expected from Petsane. The jump was less than graceful. Even though the robe, woven from spun mellowreed, was almost as light as silk, he wasn’t used to its length and bagginess.


The Beggar King, a young adult fantasy novel, tells the story of Jordan Elliott, the main character and a youth living in the city of Cir, a pleasant place of peace and white magic. On his fifteen birthday, Jordan finds his world beginning to change. A neighbouring country, Brinn, brings about a coup that overthrows their existing way of life. Several important people disappear, including his mother, a baker in the palace kitchen. Jordan is supposed to choose an occupation when he reaches sixteen, but as things grow more dangerous, Jordan decides to make a display of defiance against the oppressors. Jordan’s offense is punishable by hanging, and he flees. One of Jordan’s unusual acquaintances is Sarmillion, an older, sometimes amusing scribe, and a character who faces personal conflicts in doing what is right in their situation.

     The Cirrans have a legend of a Beggar King, something like a mythical bogeyman, who searches for the dark magic that has been safely locked away for centuries. The story says that, if the Beggar King succeeds in his search, he will unleash this destructive curse upon their world. Jordan’s girlfriend, Ophira, apprenticed to the Seven Seers of Cir, now works within the occupied palace as a seer for the new emperor.

     To escape hanging, and take action against the Brinnians, Jordan accepts a gift from the Beggar King that allows him to disappear at will. Of course, such an unpredictable and addictive gift comes with strings, and in his effort to free his people, Jordan places everyone, including Ophira and his mother, in the grave danger of the return of the Beggar King.

     Well written, The Beggar King holds the reader’s interest. With some odd and amusing characters, the author takes care to build a well-drawn world and a culture that is quite different from ours. At 269 pages, including a page of acknowledgments, plus a page with a brief author bio, the tale is divided into 30 chapters. With magic, political intrigue, good and bad choices, and well-drawn characters, The Beggar King would appeal to lovers of fantasy and adventure.

Highly Recommended.

Ronald Hore, a member of several writing groups, writes medieval-style fantasy and fantasy detective stories in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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