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The Letter for the King [Hardcover]

Tonke Dragt
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
RRP: 16.99
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Book Description

7 Nov 2013

A young messenger. A secret mission. A kingdom in peril.

It is the dead of night.

Sixteen-year-old Tiuri must spend hours locked in a chapel in silent contemplation if he is to be knighted the next day.

But, as he waits by the light of a flickering candle, he hears a knock at the door and a voice desperately asking for help.

A secret letter must be delivered to King Unauwen across the GreatMountains - a letter upon which the fate of the entire kingdom depends. Tiuri has a vital role to play, one that might cost him his knighthood.

Tiuri's journey will take him through dark, menacing forests, across treacherous rivers, to sinister castles and strange cities. He will encounter evil enemies who would kill to get the letter, but also the best of friends in the most unexpected places.

He must trust no one.

He must keep his true identity secret.

Above all, he must never reveal what is in the letter...

The Letter for the King is the thrilling story of one boy's battle against evil, set in an enchanted world of chivalry, courage and true friendship.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 520 pages
  • Publisher: Pushkin Children's Books; First edition (7 Nov 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 1782690107
  • ISBN-13: 978-1782690108
  • Product Dimensions: 20.2 x 15.8 x 4.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 85,736 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


The story has the quality of a legend, a tale of ancient times. Over a million copies of the book have been sold worldwide. The Letter for the King has everything. --Nederlands Dagblad

It is fascinating, captivating in the same way as Tolkien s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. As well as the familiar battle between good and evil, we are presented with a discovery of true chivalry. --Schager Courant

There ought to be a warning written on it: "Watch out: Whoever reads this book will forget everything that's happening around them!" From the first sentence, the pages turn into a cinema screen, and no director could have created more beautiful or gripping images --Die Zeit

“A fast-moving, wonderful old-style adventure... cinematic in its visual detail... a European classic... far loftier than Harry Potter and beautifully presented in this most attractive edition” Eileen Battersby, Irish Times

“Gripping from its opening moment onwards, this award-winning book that doesn’t miss a beat from its thrilling beginning to its satisfying ending. … A thrilling adventure which is full of heart.” Julia Eccleshare

“A charming story told simply and captivatingly… the first English translation of a classic of European children’s literature which … deserves to be richly treasured.” Booktrust, Books We Love November 2013

The Letter for the King will get pulses racing... Pushkin Press deserves every praise for publishing this beautifully translated, well presented and captivating book" – Amanda Craig, The Times

’This 1962 pulse-pounding epic follows Tiuri, a young knight-candidate who breaks hits sacred vigil to heed a desperate cry for help. Translated from the Dutch for the first time, this old-school quest story will keep all high-fantasy addicts riveted from the first page’ Metro

”An extraordinary odyssey that will grip child and adult and – if books could write – would have ‘make a movie of me!’ scribbled all over its jacket" Best Children’s Books of 2013

’A fast-paced quest... Great for high-fantasy fans’ Metro Books of the Year 2013

'Beautifully constructed... gripping, delightful and true' Guardian

About the Author

Tonke Dragt was born in Jakarta in 1930 and spent most of her childhood in Indonesia. When she was twelve, she was interned in a camp run by the Japanese occupiers, where she wrote her very first book using begged and borrowed paper. Her family moved to the Netherlands after the war, and after studying at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague Dragt became an art teacher. She published her first book in 1961, followed a year later by The Letter for the King, which won the Children's Book of the Year award and has been translated into sixteen languages. Dragt was awarded the State Prize for Youth Literature in 1976 and was knighted in 2001.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome! 31 Dec 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
My 10 year old received this as a Christmas present and has just spent the last two days reading the book. He asked me to add a review and to describe the story as "awesome!"
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By K. J. Noyes TOP 500 REVIEWER
(Review for NewBooks magazine)

It is nighttime. Dark, silent. There's a loud, insistent knocking on the door. A stranger urgently pleads with you to get a message to the King. You agree. "Do you have his email address? A number to send a text to?" Bish, bash, bosh. Message sent. End of story. Not exactly a thrilling read.

This might be the scenario of The Letter for the King if it were written as a contemporary novel. Well, thank goodness this translation of the original, written in 1962, is a truly old-fashioned (in every good sense of the word) tale of a daring quest through hardship and adversity. No quick way out, no short cuts, no technology. For me, it was a Hobbit / Lord of the Rings-type quest saga without the magic (or the dwarfs), but probably more enjoyable.

When I picked it up, I was daunted by the fact that it's a children's book that tallies up at a rather weighty 450 pages. Would a 10 year old want to wade through a book that size? Would a parent want to read 450 pages to their child?

Well, I now cannot wait for my own toddler to be old enough for me to read this to him. From the first chapter to the last, it was an absolute pleasure, one I as an adult reader enjoyed immensely.

In the great tradition of the Arthurian quest legends, the story concerns a sixteen year old, Tiuri, who, on the eve of his knighting ceremony, is disturbed from his vigil of silence by a knock at the door. Against the rules, he cannot help but break his vow of silence and agree to help the desperate stranger who comes to him seeking help in getting an important letter to the king of a neighbouring land. Knowing he will not now be knighted, Tiuri leaves without money or supplies to find the Black Knight with the White Shield.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best children book ever 25 Oct 2011
By jol
I have been waiting for this book for a long time! I read the Dutch version and have been wanting to give the translated version to English speaking friends. I never understood why it took so long for it to finally be translated. It's a book you can not put down! Now the movie that was made in 2007-2008 still needs translation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Didn't even stop for lunch! 15 Feb 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
An enthralling read. I started it one morning and didn't put it down until the end. The story is exciting and engaging (with many plot twists and gripping moments), but easy enough to share with young ones.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars one of the best children's books ever 19 Jan 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This translation of a classic by Tonke Dragt has been so overdue! I've read the German version 30years ago and was keen to introduce it to my children. Depending on your child's maturity in reading I'd recommend it for ages 8plus at least.
Tiuri is a 'knight that is not a knight'- he is asked the night before his knighting ceremony to deliver a secret message to a faraway kingdom and so suddenly is thrown into a very much adult world with intrigue and scheming that has far reaching consequences, also for his own kingdom. He really gets to know the world outside his protected upbringing. An adventure story of growing up and facing one's own decisions, standing up for what is right and finding friendship/kinship on the way. Tiuri isn't a super-hero, he still is a 'boy' (hates that occasionally) and so the reader can identify with him.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 50 years on ... and 2 generations overdue 13 Jan 2014
By Satago
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
50 years on ....
Now in my early 60's, I enjoyed reading the long-overdue English translation of this book immensely, having read it some 50 yrs ago in Dutch. Perhaps not quite as much edge-of-your-seat stuff as I remember it, but that's not surprising as it is a book aimed at children after all. My (English-speaking) daughter enjoyed it equally and is now looking forward to reading it to her young son who will soon be old enough to read it himself. A truly timeless story in every sense. A brilliant book for younger readers and grandparents alike!
I particularly like the framing of the book which uses the topography of the journey to help visualise the story, bringing it to life. It breaks the (long) story into 3-dimensional chapters which, I guess, help to make it so memorable and easily accessible for younger readers.
In my view, the translation by Laura Watkinson into English is flawless and at no time was I reminded that the book's original text wasn't written in English. I look forward to the next translation of one of Tonke Dragt's books!
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