The Kestrel by Lloyd Alexander
Series: Westmark Trilogy #2
Genre: Middle Grade, adventure
Published on April 15, 1982
Published by E.P. Dutton
Read From: 1.12.13 - 1.14.13
When Augustine, king of Westmark, sent Theo out to tour the land of which he would be prince consort, no one could have guessed what he would find. Mickle, who would one day be Queen Augusta, might know that he would discover great poverty. His old friend, the revolutionary leader Florian, would have predicted uncovering corruption within the aristocracy. But none of them would have foreseen a loaded pistol in the practiced hand of the pudgy assassin Skeit.
For the echoes of that pistol shot were to reverberate from the muskets and cannons of a war in which Westmark found itself unexpectedly engaged. How both Mickle and Theo were to be affected by that war makes a story as relentlessly suspenseful as a critical campaign and as intense as the attack of a bird of prey.
Cover Blurb: Yes or No? My problems with this cover are the same as for Westmark. It’s blockish and rather dull and just doesn’t suit for me.
Characters: All of the characters we know and love are back, along with some new ones. And they’re all just as wonderful and likable as before. Mickle proves her strength of character even further in this installment, as she bravely takes personal command of her forlorn army and stands against the invading Regians. I was never extremely fond of Justin in Westmark, and in this one, I downright dislike him at times. He seems to cause trouble for Theo simply because he can, and I keep waiting for his vendetta against Theo to become a major problem. Theo remains a great protagonist, though I do have to question his sudden change of heart. In the beginning, Theo is completely unable to kill anyone - which is why Justin hates him so much. But then a principle character is killed, and Theo turns into a virtual killing machine. I realize that Theo was pretty attached to the guy who is killed - I myself was sad when he died, - but I have a hard time believing that he would change so dramatically simply because he died, albeit in a rather cruel manner. And while Cabbarus is mentioned, he never appears in the story, which I thought was rather rotten. He was the principle villain in the previous book; if he’s to have a hand in the Regians invading Westmark, he ought to make an appearance.
The Romance: Once again, it is very subtle and doesn’t get in the way of the adventure.
Plot: In the beginning of the story, one of the characters proclaims that it has been six months since the events of the last book. It felt like way more than just six months had passed; more like a year or two. The plot of the Regians invading Westmark makes for a rather exciting story, though not nearly as many skirmishes and battles are related as one might think. Months pass by, but it is a remarkably short read, as the Author only writes out those battles that are most important to how things turn out. And then he wraps it all up with an almost too-convenient end.
Believability: Injuries and warfare, what little is related, was all good.
Writing Style: As always, Lloyd Alexander juggles humor and drama together, making for an entertaining read. His characters and the world they inhabit make this story what it is, and while his descriptions are sparse, we still get a clear picture of the landscape.
Conclusion: This is where I had the most issues, which isn’t terribly surprising, because my opinion has always been that Lloyd Alexander’s weak point is endings. Things felt rushed and at times a little too convenient. The revelation of Florian’s parentage was extremely “oh, by the way,” and then the story just moved right on. There were no character reactions, no explanations about how exactly it is Florian ended up in his circumstances, and no repercussions. Considering how unexpected the revelation was, and how important his parentage is, I would think that there would be something, a reaction of some sort. The way Constantine and Mickle meet is rather convenient, but somehow worked. However, Constantine’s uncle agreeing to end the war simply because Constantine said to didn’t make sense. Constantine’s uncle was more than willing to let Constantine die, and it seems to me that he would be the sort of man who would have a rather large number of supporters among Constantine’s staff officers. And his uncle also struck me as the sort of man that, if Constantine tried to put a stop to the war that his uncle wanted so badly, his uncle would openly oppose - and even depose - Constantine, and the reason he hadn’t done so earlier was because before Constantine was willing to support the war. Finally, the reason for delaying Mickle and Theo’s marriage once again was feeble. Does Justin honestly think that just because Theo isn’t officially prince consort, he won’t support Mickle? While The Kestrel has its flaws, it is still a good addition to the trilogy, and for the most part, fans won’t be terribly disappointed.
Recommended Audience: Girl-and-boy read, any age, fans of adventure stories, and the Westmark trilogy.
Others in the Westmark Trilogy:
3)The Beggar Queen