by Dr Keith J. White
(Chair, Child Theology Movement; author of The Growth of Love)
This story, set in the heart of England in 1264 tells how a young boy, Justin Williams, comes to find himself and in the process to save his sovereign in the Battle of Evesham. Along the way he is invited to study in a monastery, to sing in a cathedral choir, survives an attack by a wolf in the depths of a forest, and finds that his long-absent father is a leading and loyal friend of the King of England.
There are echoes of the biblical story of David when he was chosen to serve in the court of King Saul in order to try to calm his nerves. And, whether consciously or not the period in the choir school is reminiscent of Tom Brown’s Schooldays. The fact is that any such a full-bloodied story is bound to stir memories of others in this genre.
Young Justin not only grows up physically (learning to use a sword, to wrestle, to ride a warrior’s horse, and eventually to go to war), he also develops spiritually. And it is this inner maturity that is at the heart of the story. He has to learn above all to his own self to be true. He has been given the gifts of humility and integrity, and these are more valuable than his considerable strengths as a soldier and skills as a choir-boy. In time his character acts like a shaft of light in the prevailing darkness.
I read the book in one sitting, and find it hard to imagine how anyone could put it down, so deep is the spell it casts. And I was rather sad to discover that I had reached the end long before I was ready for the story to finish. Perhaps the hint in the final paragraphs that there are further adventures ahead, means that Justin will reappear in subsequent volumes. I certainly hope so. This is inspiring stuff, and I will do my best to ensure that my grandchildren read it!