The Accidental Highwayman, by Ben Tripp

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May 20, 2012
The Accidental Highwayman, by Ben Tripp. (2014) YA. First of a trilogy.
subtitle: Being the tale of Kit Bristol, his horse Midnight, a mysterious princess, and sundry magical persons besides.

I enjoyed it. It's set in a version of 18th century England (though it involves some elements of the rest of the UK) in which there is magic but most of the details are drawn from our 18th century. The writing style of the narrator is like that of 18th century authors, so the intended audience is older YA. Frankly, my experience of modern teens is that they wouldn't finish reading the subtitle, so the real audience for this book is the adult who enjoys a lively adventure. However, for the benefit of the potential YA reader and the adult who isn't familiar with 18th century slang, there are some helpful educational footnotes and illustrations. (Sharp-eyed fans will notice a few tiny elements that may be homages, but this author is not attempting to imitate Sir Terry. He has his own voice.)

Kit begins as the loyal servant of an eccentric master, whose eccentricities are soon revealed to be the cover for his life as a highwayman - the gentlemanly sort in song and legend, not the vicious reality of most others. Wounded and dying, he makes it home and Kit wears his costume to draw the pursuers away. When his master dies, Kit inadvertently becomes the highwayman because all he has is the disguising costume, the horse, the sword, and the pursuing army with their obsessed leader who won't rest until he has caught the infamous Whistling Jack. The pixies inform him that he has also inherited the magical duty his master failed to fulfil, and he will not be allowed to escape to freedom in France until he completes it.

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