The Knighting of Sir Kaye is the charming beginning to a children’s series featuring boy knight Sir Kaye and his trusty squire, Reggie Stork (the narrator), in a kingdom that has fallen on difficult times since the death of its former king, a good and wise man.
Reggie is a wool merchant’s son who does not want to follow in his father’s footsteps, while young Kaye Balfour, the son of the kingdom’s finest and most chivalrous knight, most certainly does. They become friends unexpectedly when Kaye rescues Reggie from a quicksand pool by knitting him a rope, and when the two of them together rescue the queen’s nephew from brigands, they come to the attention of the court.
The new young queen, who has lived in a foreign land all her life, is trying to win the respect of her knights and bring them back to the ideals of the past. She seizes upon Kaye as an example of chivalry and courage, and makes him the youngest knight the kingdom has ever known. But can he prove himself worthy of his famous father? Can he and Reggie repair Kaye’s relationship with an alienated friend, and rescue the values of chivalry from lazy and disrespectful adult knights?
I had trouble getting this book back from my young son in order to review it, which is always a good sign. When I did, I understood the appeal. This is a lively and adventurous kids’ book, full of gentle humor and warmth. The boys are appealingly human and, well, boyish, with the beginnings of real nobility and honor but by no means over-idealized. (I like the fact that Kaye does not automatically win every contest he enters – the author is careful to leave room for him to grow in strength and ability.)
The young Queen is likewise a charming character, whose strength of will and courage bode well for her kingdom’s future. I look forward to watching the three of them grow up as the series progresses – this story sets an excellent foundation for future character (and world) development to come. The adventures are neither dull nor too scary for the young reader, and the plot is cheerful, lively and entertaining. The moral lessons of the tale are straightforwardly presented – it is generally clear who the “good guys” and “bad guys” are and why – but not in a preachy or tiresome manner.
The writing is clear, smooth, and well-edited, as a children’s book ought to be. And there are clever and bright touches throughout, such as Kaye’s surprising ability to knit, which comes in handy in the most unlikely places. The story is perhaps a bit predictable in places, as is typical of children’s books. There are also aspects of the book which seem unreasonable to an adult reader (the knights’ disrespect to their queen, for example, when a more usual response might be to flatter a new monarch in hopes of winning royal favor for the rest of the reign), but these probably will not trouble a child.
The Knighting of Sir Kaye is really an excellent start to what promises to be a fine medieval adventure series for young children, readable and entertaining. It may be aimed particularly at boys, but it does contain female characters with courage, intelligence and spirit (the Queen, her lady-in-waiting Nicolette, and Kaye’s young sister Meg show great potential in this regard), and I see no reason why a girl shouldn’t enjoy it thoroughly as well.
Reviewed by Catherine Langrehr for IndieReader