The Player King

In 1486 England, King Henry VII has stolen the English crown and imprisoned the rightful heir, Edward, the Earl of Warwick, in the Tower of London. Lambert Simnel, an orphan, is nothing more than a lowly scullion at an Oxford tavern until a friar, Brother Simonds, purchases him and claims he is the prince, escaped. Under the priest's tutelage, Lambert learns to be a proper king, but no training can prepare him for manipulative royals, murderous traitors and a bloody battle for the crown.

Avi (The Unexpected Life of Cromwell Pitts; The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle) develops narrator Lambert from a cheeky, sarcastic kitchen boy who sees himself as nothing to a powerful, confident king who wholeheartedly believes his royal status. Choosing to home in on the internal changes Lambert experiences, rather than focusing on details about his physical training and studying, keeps Lambert's journey swiftly moving and utterly engrossing. But The Player King's real strength comes in the form of language. Avi's use of alliteration helps readers slow down and appreciate the images he's creating: "I heard the sound of sacred singing, slow and sorrowful, as if from another sphere." And 15th-century English words and phrases sprinkled throughout--table-leavings, roistering, cock-brained--ground the narrative in its place and time period without being too heavy-handed.

In The Player King, Avi tells a story that seems too outrageous to be true, but an author's note confirms it all happened. That--the fact behind the fiction--is what truly makes this book a worthy read. --Lana Barnes, freelance reviewer and proofreader

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