by Sherwood Smith
YA Angst (Norilana Books), 2007. 446 pages.
I read this book a few months ago when I was on a Sherwood Smith kick, after rereading the masterpiece Crown Duel, and reading its prequel, A Stranger to Command.
Senrid, the title character of this book, is the boy-king of Marloven Hess in the book A Stranger to Command. Senrid takes place when Senrid is king in name only, with the country led by his uncle, acting as regent, so this book fills in more details.
In fact, the book starts in another kingdom altogether, Vasande Leror, with a boy ruler Leander and his step-sister Kitty. He gets a visit from Faline, who comes from a group of girls who have adventures. She warns him of an upcoming attack from Marloven Hess, which they manage to cleverly thwart.
But then a strange boy named Senrid comes to visit, asking lots of questions and knowing quite a bit about magic. Not until he disappears — and kidnaps Faline — do they realize he’s the king of Marloven Hess. Faline’s due to be executed for her part in Marloven Hess’s earlier humiliation, unless someone can save her.
The amazing thing about this book is that Sherwood Smith wrote it when she was fifteen, in 1966. The writing is definitely not as smooth as her later books, and there are an awful lot of characters — mostly children — to keep track of. And the children seem more childish than adults usually write them.
It turns out that from the age of eight, Sherwood Smith was inventing adventures for a group of girls in the magical world of Sartoria-deles. Senrid does have the feel of a book that a kid would like to be able to step into. Faline and her friends were imaginary friends of the author, and that’s why so many make an appearance here.
It also explains the characters’ attitude about children and adults. Leander thinks, “Adults, in his recent experience, rarely told the truth, and were mostly motivated by selfish or incomprehensible desires. He knew he couldn’t judge their trustworthiness by word or expression, but someone his own age he found far easier to trust.”
The more I read Sherwood Smith’s work, the more amazed I am at the elaborate and detailed world she has created, and how it all fits together. It turns out that almost all her books are set in this world, but usually in different countries. So it’s intriguing when the stories slightly touch one another. I can appreciate better now that she’s been working on creating that world for more than forty years.
So I don’t recommend Senrid as an introduction to Sherwood Smith’s work, since she did grow as a writer and her later books are better crafted. However, once you’re thoroughly hooked into her world, you’ll enjoy this chance to find out more about the mysterious boy-king Senrid.
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