I blurbed a book! I know, I know. That doesn’t happen very often these days, but Susan, my YA editor at Tor, approached me with a project she is very excited and passionate about: The Accidental Highwayman by Ben Tripp. And after reading it, I have to highly recommend it—Susan has discovered a gem.
From the back of the book:
In eighteenth-century England, young Christopher “Kit” Bristol is the unwitting servant of notorious highwayman Whistling Jack. One dark night, Kit finds his master bleeding from a mortal wound, dons the man’s riding cloak to seek help, and changes the course of his life forever. Mistaken for Whistling Jack and on the run from redcoats, Kit is catapulted into a world of magic and wonders he thought the stuff of fairy tales.
We’ve seen the story of the servant taking up the master’s mantle before. But the twist caught my attention. Kind of like becoming the Dread Pirate Roberts, only you didn’t mean to, and now all England is looking to put you in prison for the crimes your master committed. Something in between The Princess Bride and The Fugitive with the charm of Stardust and the snark of Terry Pratchett—if he wrote Robert Louis Stevenson fan fiction. The Accidental Highwayman should be judged on its own merits, of course, but comparing it to those books and authors is the best way to give you the feel of this novel in a way that will catch the attention of those readers who will enjoy it the most.
At the beginning of the book, author Ben Tripp purports only to be the editor of notes he found in a chest belonging to one of his ancestors. The story begins in an affected voice meant to sound like something from the eighteenth century, but laced with enough humor and snark that you feel the author is subtly looking at you from behind the words and shooting you an anachronistic wink. Tripp has mastered the balancing act of making the prose sound archaic while at the same time being palatable to modern readers. Take a gander at Tripp’s website—you can tell he’s something of a character.
So, yes, I recommend this book. Like I said to my editor, The Accidental Highwayman is “Delightful and charming. A swashbuckling adventure in the vein of Robert Louis Stevenson.”
Take a look at what other reviewers have said:
“Readers will root for star-crossed lovers, Kit and Morgana, and delight in their ‘opposites attract’ romance, drawn onward by a rollicking plot…. Fantasy readers, especially fans of Catherynne Valente’s work, will enjoy the author’s elegant turns of phrase. A first purchase for all fantasy collections.” —School Library Journal, Starred Review
“Spells, wishes and fantastical creatures aside, this rollicking yarn owes more to R.L. Stevenson than J.K. Rowling. Kit’s wry voice provides a fine pastiche of old-fashioned tale-telling… enlivened by breakneck pacing, colorful similes and a sly wit aimed at modern sensibilities…. Kit himself is as brave, clever and good-natured an orphan lad as ever buckled a swash. The promise of more adventures to come provides happily-ever-after enough. They can still write ’em like they used to; hurrah!” —Kirkus Reviews
“While the journey isn’t quick, it never grows tedious—danger, magic, and intrigue wait at every turn. Tripp infuses his story with whimsy, humor, and derring-do, and his miniature spot illustrations and handful of lovely full-page pieces add to the overall charm.” —Publishers Weekly
“Tripp builds a richly imagined fantasy world, captured both in Kit’s dry, witty first-person narrative and Tripp’s detailed illustrations. The complex political machinations… make for a compelling and quietly sinister background thrum that builds until the exciting concluding battle, which handily leaves room for more adventures in the planned trilogy. Fans of classic adventure will find plenty to like here.” —Booklist