Tuesday, July 13, 2021

The Verdigris Pawn

Wishingrad, Alyssa. The Verdigris Pawn
July 13th 2021 by HarperCollins
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Beau is the heir to the throne of The Land, and his father, known as Himself, has kept him very sheltered. When Beau's tutor dies and Himself's forces are suffering from illness, it is suspected that there is a charmer loose in the palace who is causing these problems. Beau has been playing a forbidden game, Fist, that is based on overthrowing the king. Fledge, who works in the stables, has been teaching him the game, and Beau considers him his only friend. When Beau runs afoul of Barger, the man takes one of thepieces of the game, a verdigris pawn, to use against the boy. Beau runs away, and comes across Cressi, who heals him when he has an accident. This reveals her as a healer like Beau's mother, who came from another class of people in the kingdom, and who met an untimely end. Cressi fills him in on all of the evil things that his father's rule has done, and Beau starts to feel like he should help the people in the kingdom, but Cressi is taken by Barger. Beau runs off again and runs into Nate, who gets the impression that Beau is an apprentice cordwainer. The two decide to go to the Bottom, where the kingdom's disadvantaged have gathered, and try to find Doone, who is a sort of folk hero who is fighting against Himself's rule. While Cressi is with Barger, she meets other women who are healers, and learns to make potions. Barger wants to use her skills, but she increases her skills in order to help overthrow his powers. In the meantime, Beau finds out that Doone isn't what he is said to be, although he has a hard time convincing Nate of this. He's determined to find Cressi and figure out a way to change the way that the kingdom operates so that children are not sent to the Mastery House to be taught how to do menial jobs and exploited by the well-to-do, and so that Doone is not able to terrorize people into giving his henchmen all of their assets. Will he be able to find his new friend Cressi, and convince his father to turn the kingdom around for the good of the people?
Strengths: Beau is a typically sheltered royal child who doesn't have a firm grip on the reality of his past, but comes in to his own as he attempts to right the wrongs to which he is introduced. Taking the standard fantasy trope of a tween saving the kingdom and working in social justice themes is kind of a brilliant twist. Cressi is a great character, and I can see readers getting into a lot of trouble in the kitchen, trying to make brews using the kitchen spice rack. While some of the adults are evil, it's good to see that there are some who are looking out for Beau and Cressi. The slowly revealed back story of Beau's mother and her relationship to the magic that Cressi has will keep readers guessing, and I liked the way that everything was resolved. (But don't want to spoil the ending!)
Weaknesses: I didn't quite feel the chemistry between Cressi and Beau, so found it harder to believe that they had such a strong connection. 
What I really think: This will be a big hit with readers who can't get enough vaguely medieval fantasy quests. It seemed like there were shout outs to a lot of classics like Alexander's The Book of Three  (pig keepers are mentioned!), and some of the traveling reminded me a bit of The Door in the Wall. I was glad that Beau isn't injured quite as often as Jaron in Nielsen's The False Prince! Hand this to fans of Prineas and Durst. This could be a stand alone, but the ending does leave room for a sequel. 
 Ms. Yingling

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