by Lili Thal and John Brownjohn (trans.)

Wow. Go check out this book.

I’ve seen a bunch of YA fiction that tries to introduce teens to more literary writing. Aside from The Book Thief, I don’t remember reading anything recently that manages to pull it off. Most of the time, the beginning looks promising, but the ending sucks, because it tries to get all transcendental and stuff. Not here. A perfectly ental, perfectly appropriate ending.

The writing is so good, I can’t even burn with jealousy.

Florin remembered how proud everyone at Mondfield Castle had been two years ago, when the chapel’s opaque horn window panes had been replaced with leaded glass. Compares to these heavenly windows, the ones at home were plain to the point of poverty.

How much money had Theodo paid for this splendor? Whose blood had he shed in order to acquire it?

Almost simultaneously he felt ashamed of this envious thought: extolling the beauty of Heaven was always pleasing in the sight of God.

The story’s about a naive prince who’s captured by a neighboring monarch and forced to become a jester. Note: Jesters are not clowns. The court jester is allowed to get away with the awful tricks he pulls because people think of him as a soulless beast, no more responsible than then monkeys living in the same tower. Florin, caught between his pride and the threat of his father’s torture and death, struggles to keep his humanity while the jester trains him to caper and joke in the face of humiliation. –You hear that phrase sometimes. “He Struggles to Keep His Humanity!” (echo, echo, echo). Nope. This is the real deal.

When Florin returned to the king’s bedside, he had to exert all of his willpower to stand up straight and hold his head erect. He had a frightfully distinct sensation that loose strips of skin were dangling down his back, and it was only with the greatest difficulty that he restrained himself from pulling down his costume and peering over his shoulder. At the same time he felt something warm running down his chin: blood from the lips he’d bitten while being whipped.

King Theodo eyed him lingeringly. Then he said: “You learnt a lesson down there. What was it?”

I haven’t seen The Passion of the Christ, but I’ve heard it was too gory. Earnest people nod earnestly about the movie and talk about how inspiring it was*. Almost everyone else says it was too gory. This book handles the same type of situation with love–not the cheap love that grandstands, but the kind that just lives it, daily, without expecting thanks or even acknowledgment–and humor as well as pain. Well done.

*I hope they aren’t considering copycat crimes.