This one started out a little thicker than I normally like. I don’t mean thick by the story being almost 400 pages long, I mean thick by the amount of information that is thrown at you. Lots of character names and lots of back story.
That said; let me say that this book is more than worth sticking through the first few, difficult, chapters. It’s interesting to note that German author, Lilli Thal, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in information management / multimedia technology, but after learning the joy of writing copy for the internet, she decided to go for a career in writing. Her studies in medieval history, art history, and Christian archaeology come shining through in the story of Mimus.
Translated by John Brownjohn, the writing is very clear and easy to read. At first I was a little confused–as if I was reading about a valid historical era–but the fact is this story was written with such plausibility that one could almost believe this fantastical setting really existed. In reality, it is just a fantastical world written with some real-world history, making the reader believe he/she is back in the medieval days.
Twelve-year-old Florin, Prince of Moltovia, is summoned by his father to the kingdom of Vinland. With the recent war between the two realms the promise of a truce sends feelings of joy and relief into the hearts of the people. Florin goes with high spirits to see his father, even if it might mean the union between him and the unknown princess, Alix, which would help to seal the peace.
On the way, a strange and seemingly crazy woman jumps onto the path and warns Florin to turn back. The party was a little confused by the act, but didn’t let it deter them from proceeding. Later, Florin comes to realize he should have listened to the woman; what was awaiting him wasn’t a treaty, but treachery. Rather than a banquet, his father and his father’s men show up in chains only to be mocked and ridiculed by a jester named Mimus.
Once Mimus turns his attacks on Florin, he finds himself in a battle of whit’s. This gives King Theodo the idea to hand Florin over to the jester to train him to become a fool. Only thing, no one is allowed to know who he really is. Suffering from this humiliation, Florin does what he can in order to survive; sleeping on straw like an animal, being in a state of constant hunger, suffering from lashes of a whip, and learning to play a buffoon. He sticks with it all so that his father (locked in a dungeon) does not suffer further punishment on his behalf. All in hopes that help will come before his father’s execution, one in which he is expected to provide the entertainment for.
I absolutely loved this story. Highly recommend it to anyone who loves medieval tales, and even to those who don’t. Quite an original idea that is executed very well. A page turner to the very end. Other than the slightly dizzying beginning, my only other complaint is that there weren’t enough scenes with Florin and the princess, Alix. Here’s hoping a sequel is written.
Things to consider:
The age group listed is ten to fourteen, but I can easily see it appealing to a much older audience. There are some crude scenes, but nothing really inappropriate; some violence, but much less than one would imagine; and depictions of cruelty. This might be a little disturbing to some children, but taken to heart it is very understandable. Also, for the religious reader, this story follows a lot of religious practices from Catholicism. Depending on what religious order you follow, explain to your children about some of the differences and things you agree and/or disagree with; such as praying to saints, the need for forgiveness from a priest, the rosary, and so on so forth. So whether you are for or against some of these things, just keep this in mind.
Opportunities for discussion:
There are many messages in this story. For one, we learn that a person sometimes has to do unpleasant things to survive, including sucking up his or her pride. As children venture into the real-world they need to understand that there are times to stand strong and times to do what has to be done no matter how unpleasant. That’s just a part of growing up and being responsible. Next, let’s talk about Mimus, the Jester. We learn that external actions cannot truly define the internal workings of a man. Often Christians judge on the externals and have no idea why a person does this or that. It just goes to show that we should withhold judgment and try to know people for who they really are. Thirdly, there are times in life when God seems to have abandoned us, as Florin felt. But be reminded that God works on a different timetable than us and in the end He’s there for us and will get us through. Finally, I want to mention the scene where the priest told Florin–because he was a jester–that he was not worthy of praying and being in the presence of God. Tell your kids that God loves all His creations, regardless of people’s external biases and racial bigotry.