Escape Velocity

A curated Collection of Fantasy and Science Fiction Media

When the wandering knight Ristridin of the South does not return from his quest in the Wild Woods at the agreed upon time, Tiuri of the White Shield, his squire Piak, and Ristridin's other friends set out to find him. But the Wild Woods are full of secrets, dangers, and men in green...

The Secrets of the Wild Wood is the sequel to The Letter for the King, which has been collected!  Click here to read our in-depth discussion. 

If you’ve read my review of the first part of this series, you’ll know I think The Secrets of the Wild Woods is one of the best, if not the best, fantasy books ever written in Dutch. Yes, it is originally intended for children, and yes, that is noticeable. But even for grown-ups, the book is so full of atmosphere and tension that it is tough to put away.

Where the The Letter for the King is a bit more cautious about how it approaches the many dangers of an adventurer’s life (Dragt sanitises some, simply dodges others) to fit on a kid’s bookshelf, The Secrets of the Wild Woods does away with that approach somewhat and delves deeper into the dark side of a medieval world full of knights and riders in red: there’s war, there’s fighting, there’s killing and dying.

Though the setting never becomes grim or dark, The Secrets of the Wild Wood exchanges a little of the fairy tale-esque atmosphere of the first book for a slightly harsher view of knighthood, and I love it. For me, it compares to the stories of King Arthur and his knights of the round table – there’s quests, heroics, deceit, a clear sense of right and wrong, and honour even among the enemy.

As a result of the dangers feeling more tangible and real, the book’s pacing and tension turn up a notch too – there’s more happening at the same time, and Tiuri’s (and the other characters’) predicaments grow more dire. The plot is a little more involved and you’ll find yourself flipping back to the map more often than before.

It brings Secrets of the Wild Woods closer to the more traditional grown-up fantasy fare whilst still retaining some of that beautiful simplicity. Perhaps we could see Secrets of the Wild Woods as a bridge for a young reader from children’s fantasy to YA or adult books.

I would recommend Secrets of the Wild Woods to anyone who enjoyed The Letter for the King. Even if you finished The Letter for the King and thought it was ok, but were put off a little because it was too much a children’s book for you, maybe still give this one a go: Secrets of the Wild Woods brings a little more grim to an otherwise noble world and a plot with a few more twists and turns.

Plus, it heavily features Knight Ristridin who is hands down the best character in all of Dutch speculative literature, if not in all of fantasy literature the world over. He’s the Dutch Aragorn. Knight Ristridin is the reason I attend H.E.M.A./historical fencing training every week. You need more of Knight Ristridin in your life. 

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