Friday, 21 July 2017

Free Lance and the Lake of Skulls by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell

review by Maryom

The jousting season is over, and Free Lance is making his way from town to town looking for ways to earn his keep - a small tournament, a sword display, even a joust on the village green. One day he finds himself accepting a curious challenge -  a lord wants Lance to go in search of an enchanted crown, and in return he'll get a bag of gold. Lance is quick to accept but has he maybe been too eager? In the middle of a lake lies an island, and on that island is a mountain of skulls, the topmost of which belongs to an ancient king, and is still wearing his golden crown. It sounds like a simple task (ok, maybe not) but if the pile of skulls wasn't scary enough, there are creatures waiting for Lance in the lake ... and Chris Riddell's illustrations bring them to life in all their horror.

As always with books from Barrington Stoke publishers, care has been taken with the font, lay-out and even colour of the pages to make the book more appealing to dyslexic and struggling reader, but without compromising on telling a great story. There are illustrations on almost every page to lure the reader in, but, to be honest, I think the story will have grabbed them anyway. Each chapter ends at a 'cliffhanger' moment encouraging the reader to find out what happens next, rather than put the book down. 
 Lance may be a knight down on his luck, with rusted, dented armour, and an old, tired horse, but he's definitely the hero of the story. He's a bit quick to get into brawls in the inn but he's brave enough to trek alone through dark deep forests, paddle across the sinister lake and then climb that mountain of skulls, without once thinking of turning back. Kids will love him!
Yes it's gruesome and scary, but in a way to delight a young reader, and I think they'll squeal as much with laughter as with terror (maybe not suitable for the more squeamish though)

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Barrington Stoke
Genre - 8+, specially suitable for reluctant, dyslexic and struggling readers, knights, 

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