The 17 year old Stach dreams of becoming king of the kingdom of Katoren. The old king died on the night of his birth 17 years ago, and a new king has still not been found. The six ministers ruling the country in the kings place give him seven difficult tasks. If Stach completes them all, he will be the new king. But the question rises – do the ministers even want a new king to be found?
Listened to the audiobook with Jan Terlouw himself. Another classic Dutch children’s book. It is a great play on the seven works-trope, and full of the beautiful, nonsensical solutions to real problems that only work in children’s tales. There are moral lessons to be learned at each of the tasks, though to be fair, Stach, the main character, does not seem to develop much himself.
The book is beginning to show its age at times (people write letters constantly and the newspaper seems the main mode of communication between communities), but I would definitely still recommend it for both young and old readers – it reads easily and has a high pace, so I would expect it to engage even modern readers.
Koning van Katoren is a true children’s classic in the Netherlands. I recently reread it (in a desperate attempt to finish my intended 50 books that year) and thoroughly enjoyed it, even at 25.
This book has worldbuilding that stems purely from the plot. Every time Stach arrives in a new town, he finds out that they have one specific problem that’s making life difficult. What is most charming to me, is the way these problems shape the lives of the citizens of each town. you can really see that Terlouw put thought into the consequences that these weird situations would have on all aspects of people’s lives. A lot of it is very nonsensical, but because it has internal consistency, it just works.
If you like fantasy that is ~whimsical~ and doesn’t take itself too seriously, you’ll definitely enjoy this book. I’d also absolutely recommend it to any Dungeon Masters trying to get inspiration for more light-hearted D&D campaigns.