It wasn’t until I was in college that I was introduced to David and Karen Mains’ Tales of the Kingdom series, but even after just the first few pages I knew they were going to be books that I would want to own and share with others. It’s difficult for me to explain what grabbed me about them; they remind me of Narnian allegories in some ways, Max Lucado’s children’s stories in other ways, Corrie ten Boom’s writing style in another way. They include all the ingredients that Lewis or Tolkien would list for a proper fairy story; princesses, dragons, an evil enchanter, a quest, a King and a Kingdom. They might be difficult to find in bookstores and libraries these days, but I’d recommend seeking out the original 1980s editions with illustrations by Jack Stockman. (I snagged one at Inkwell from BooksBloom, and I’ve seen a few in used bookstores here and there. You could also commission someone to check in used bookstores for you, if you’ve already searched the ones in your town.) Tales of the Kingdom is the first volume in the three-book series; I’m glad to be able to introduce it to you.
Once upon a time, not long ago and not far away, there was a boy, no longer a child and not yet a man, who lived in the Enchanted City…
The reader enters the story of Scarboy and his brother, Little Child, on the day of their mother’s funeral. The two are on their own now, belonging to no one in the Enchanted City, and that means they are orphans; vulnerable to the whims and wishes of the Enchanter and his Burners and Breakers, who, jealous of the sun, rule the city with fire during the night. To establish his authority and quell rumors of an ancient king (the rightful ruler of the city), the Enchanter has posted signs everywhere: THERE IS NO KING. DEATH TO PRETENDERS.
Scarboy and Little Child seize a wild chance to run, and they escape to the garbage dump at the edge of the city. Their mother used to talk about a forest there, and sure enough, they find a gate, with the message, “Welcome All Who Hunt” emblazoned across it. They step through into the quiet wood, and find rest and welcome with new friends; Caretaker and Mercie, the keepers of Great Park.
His mother had been right; it was not dark in this place where trees grew. There was hardly any darkness at all. The boy hurried to follow after Caretaker, feeling in his heart as though he had discovered something he had been hunting after all of his life.
So begins the life of Scarboy (now called Hero) and Little Child in Great Park. Hero’s story is interspersed with that of others; the Orphan Keeper’s Assistant, the Chief Baker, the Apprentice Juggler. Each learns in his or her own time, along with Hero, the magic of Great Park; the bravery of Ranger Commander and his crew who protect Great Park from fire, the silliness and creative powers of Caretaker, the healing hands of Mercie. A second primary character in these stories is Amanda, a cheerful and headstrong princess. She introduces Hero to the traditions and ways of Great Park and the joy of the Great Celebration, when all who serve the King pass through the Sacred Flames and become who they really are. Most importantly, Amanda and the others in Great Park teach Hero how to sight the King; to understand the difference between seeing and believing and to look past the outward forms of beggar, peasant, or woodcutter to see the true King. However, the pair of friends are tested. Temptation, shame, guilt, anger, fear: all of these are still present in Great Park. Along with Amanda, Hero passes through trial and fire and finally summons the courage to stand in the Inmost Circle and make his vow; “To the King! To the Restoration!”
And the boy became the King’s man, and discovered that one goes into the Inmost Circle in order to come out again. Entrance is only the beginning of the quest.
Hero’s story is continued in Tales of the Resistance and Tales of the Restoration.
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