Westmark by Lloyd Alexander
Series: Westmark Trilogy #1
Genre: Middle Grade, adventure
Published on May 12, 1981
Published by E.P. Dutton
Read From: 10.20.12 - 10.27.12
When Theo the printer's devil agreed to publish a pamphlet for the bombastic Dr. Absalom, he didn't know it would lead to trouble. But Westmark had become a dangerous place since the villainous Chief Minister Cabbarus had come to power. The press was destroyed, and Theo barely managed to escape with his life.
Cover Blurb: Yes or No? Divided; it initially caught my interest many years back because it looked like an awesome historical adventure story, but I personally am not a fan of the artwork. It’s too . . . harsh.
Characters: Lloyd Alexander is wonderful at creating memorable characters, and I personally think that his most memorable cast is in this trilogy. I am not a fan of Theo name, the protagonist, but I love Theo himself. He’s the right age to have an adventure and he’s honest. Las Bombas reminds me of Mr. Tigg from Martin Chuzzlewit - a conman, not wholly a bad man (Mr. Tigg is a scoundrel, but he cared for Bailey), and bursting with personality. Musket, the dwarf, for some reason really struck a chord with me. He doesn’t really have all that much dialogue in the book, but he’s a spunky and memorable character. If Westmark were ever turned into a movie, Warwick Davis would be perfect for Musket. Cabbarus is an acceptable villain, but he isn’t the most impressive I’ve met. He’s a little too full of himself, which causes him to make mistakes, but he is also cold-hearted enough that I wouldn’t want to meet him. And then Mickle . . . I love Mickle. She’s clever, practical, and sarcastic without having The Attitude.
The Romance: It is hardly mentioned in the story. Theo and Mickle like each other, but the Author doesn’t let their attraction get in the way of what is, at its heart, a good adventure story. It is the sort of romance a story like this needs: clearly there, but not overbearing, doesn’t make the characters start behaving ridiculously, and really doesn’t even come up as an issue until the very end.
Plot: As I have said, it’s an adventure story, and it has all the elements that are needed. A protagonist turned fugitive by no fault of his own, a flamboyant personality the protagonist later meets up with (in this case, Las Bombas), street urchins, a group of revolutionaries, a jail break, and of course the villain’s downfall. I love the era the Author chose for his story - 1700s - and I really liked the twist in the end. It’s a twist that has been done countless times, but the Author pulls it off because he doesn’t make it at all obvious until it is actually revealed.
Believability: Cabbarus’s plans for taking over the throne are entirely plausible. It is a plan that could very easily go wrong, true, but that’s the beauty of fiction: in a book, that evil plan doesn’t have to go wrong, so long as there is a possibility that it could work.
Writing Style: I do like Lloyd Alexander’s style. He has great wit, and it is a simple, pleasing style that suits adventure stories very well. He knows how to bring his characters to life with very few words, but in those few words, he conveys so much about them. Westmark is no exception.
Conclusion: The one major flaw I have always found in Alexander’s stories are his endings. I have always found them to be very weak. It’s like he writes and writes, and then gets bored with the story and just cobbles together an ending that either is so bizarre that it leaves you with a question mark hovering above your head, or it’s just bloody abrupt. The conclusion to Westmark is bloody abrupt, but what saves it is the fact that the book has a sequel, so an abrupt ending is acceptable in this case. I read this book a long time ago, and loved it as a kid. Re-reading it now that I’m older, I still love it. There’s just nothing not to like. The characters, the story, the world itself - it’s all wonderful.
Recommended Audience: Girl-and-guy read, any age. Readers of “swashbucklers” would love this.
Others in This Trilogy:
3)The Beggar Queen