The Letter for the King, by Tonke Dragt, Pushkin Children’s Books, RRP£7.99, 560 pages

The Letter for the King has sold a million copies since it was first published in Dutch in 1962 and been translated into 16 languages – including, finally after 50 years, English.

The action centres on Tiuri, a 16-year-old squire charged with an important errand: to carry a sealed letter from his homeland, the Kingdom of Dagonaut, to the Kingdom of Unauwen, its contents vital to the fate of both nations. Along the way he encounters brigands, assassins and spies, all intent on preventing him from completing his mission; but there are allies too, principally Piak, the mountain guide. Learning who and who not to trust forms as much a part of the quest as delivering the letter.

Presented in a seamless translation by Laura Watkinson and graced with the author’s own illustrations, Tonke Dragt’s novel has the simplicity of plot and clarity of expression characteristic of great children’s fiction. Over its 560 pages this spellbinding classic of high fantasy never once flags.

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