The Secrets of the Wild Wood

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 06 Sep 2018

Member Reviews

When I started The Secrets of the Wild Wood, I was not aware that it was actually a sequel to a prior book written in 1962, A Letter For the King. While the reader may not know all of the character's back stories, this volume is thoroughly entertaining on its own. With the announcement, however, that Netflix is producing an original series based on the first book, I suggest new readers begin with book one and then treat themselves to the adaptation when it is released. 

Tonke Dragt has created a marvelous tale set in the days of knights, squires and warring kingdoms. Tiuri is the protagonist in The Secrets of the Wild Wood and he has a faithful squire in Piak. Together they face the mystery and danger of the Wild Wood in search of  Sir Ristridin who many believe dead. In his adolescent enthusiasm, Tiuri must determine whom he can trust as motives and designs are often hidden and deceptive.  And in his youthful fervor, he also battles a war of the heart between two beguiling young women.

Readers will be caught up in the twists, turns, and vivid descriptions of the Wild Wood, the Men in Green (which reminded me of Robin Hood and his Merry Men), and the soldiers of multiple kingdoms all trying to reign supreme.  It is a tale of chivalry, loyalty, betrayal, and noble quests. I highly recommend this tale for readers young and old alike. Don't miss discovering The Secrets of the Wild Wood for yourself!

For more about the author Tonke Dragt, you may want to visit her website (note: you'll want to translate the page unless you know Dutch) at https://www.leopold.nl/auteur/tonke-dragt/

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of The Secrets of the Wild Wood from NetGalley for the purpose of review.
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One of the King’s knights is missing. So the King sends Sir Tiuri, along with his faithful squire and friend, Piak, out to find him. But to do this they must venture into a terrifying and dangerous secret forest realm where every path might only lead further into its impenetrable depths and unimaginable perils.

It did take me a while to get into The Secrets of the Wild Wood. This was not due to Laura Watkinson’s translation, which allows the no nonsense text to get on with the story, but rather because the narrative was written in a way that was more tell than show and without contractions when the characters spoke. However, once I had become accustomed to the rhythm of the story, I became engrossed in the unfolding events.

The Secrets of the Wild Wood has the feel of a style of story akin to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in the sense that it was a tale of chivalry and Tiuri is put to the test.

For a mid-grade reader there was some depth in the straightforward language of the text in that there were no clear-cut villains. Each had a plausible motive for why they might be working against the King. The reader is also not quite sure where loyalties might lie, to the point where I even began to distrust even loyal Piak, which really added to the tension of the narrative and the need to know what was going to happen next.

Billed as a fantasy novel, The Secrets of the Wild Wood reads more like a historic novel, and because of this makes a refreshing change from the character roll of obligatory dragons, giants and fantastical creatures. It also shows how a fantasy novel can become an engrossing, rip-roaring adventure of mortals without magical powers or outrageous and unbelievable embellishments.
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Tiuri and two more knights are waiting for Sir Ristridin. The plan was to meet up at Ristridin's castle when spring came, to see if any of them had discovered the identity and whereabouts of an evil knight who killed their friend in the previous book.  But Sir Ristridin, who ventured into the Wild Wood, has gone missing.

As rumors of invasion lure his friends elsewhere, Tiuri enters the Wild Wood with his squire Piak and discovers an evil festering in this foreboding place. The black knights with red shields have set up a fortress there, and the mysterious Men in Green that live in the forest seem to be allied with them. Once again, Tiuri discovers secrets that will mean the salvation or downfall of a kingdom and must go on a quest to save what is true and good.

This second volume in Tiuri's story started out a little slow, but within a few chapters, it turned into a perilous tale of adventure, treachery, honor, and bravery. Lavinia, the daughter of Lord Rafox, re-enters the story with a romantic subplot hinted at in the previous book. Tiuri is conflicted at first by what lady he owes his allegiance to. As he spent time with the bewitching Isadoro, there were echoes of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

In this book, Tiuri becomes more than an adventurous boy. He must not only stay true to his mission himself, but he must have the wherewithal to bind others to the cause, showing them that inaction is just as wrong as fighting for the other side. He must use his wits to protect the life of one that few find valuable, and maintain his word to the least of all even while maintaining his responsibility to his king. 

One of the remarkable things about these books is the complex emotions the characters and readers must grapple with within the matter-of-fact narrative style. Piak feels the twinge of jealousy of a friendship being overshadowed by a love interest. Sir Ristridin feels the longing to give up knight-errantry and have a wife and a home, but fears that he is too old for the woman who loves him. Tiuri feels both pity and loathing for his enemy, and recognizing this, his enemy hates him all the more. Tiuri also kills his first man in this book, and even though it was necessary and honorable, he still feels the weight of that death on his shoulders. 

With a fast-paced but thought-provoking story, this book could be enjoyed by middle grade students, young adults, or adults. The secrets of the Wild Wood will stay with you, long after you finish reading the last page. 

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.
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Antonia ‘Tonke’ Dragt once again shows how good literature from our fellow Europeans makes such good reading.  In 1962 she published ‘The Letter for the King’ and since it was eventually translated into English, so many new people have become fans.  In 1965 she published a sequel, although you can read this as a standalone novel, and once again we can see how good her plotting and writing is.

At the end of the previous novel Tiuri had been made a knight, and whilst at home with his parents, with his squire Piak, so they are off on a new adventure.  Sir Ristridin had been sent out to travel the Wild Wood, but since then he has seemingly disappeared, and the search is on, especially as rumours tell that he had to go elsewhere due to invasion rumours.  Having to travel into the woods and facing a lot of action, adventure and derring-do, so we meet old friends, as well as new characters, and we find there is certainly something devilish afoot, as well as the true identity of the Black Knight with the Red Shield finally being revealed.

As with the previous novel what is so good about this and is a strong point, is that once again although we are in a fantasy world, one that does not really exist, there is nothing fantastical here, so this reads more like historical fiction. And thus, will perhaps build an appreciation of literature in your child, as well as an interest in some real history.  With a little bit of romance, a lot of adventure along with skulduggery, treachery, and the politics of the lands here, this book has so much to offer, not only to younger readers which this is aimed at, but also for adults.  If you enjoyed the first novel you will love this, and if you are reading this one first, then I would seriously recommend getting the first book.

I was kindly provided with a review copy of this by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes.
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