Sunday, October 06, 2013

Book review: The Gauntlet by Ronald Welch

Like many boys his age, Peter is fascinated with castles and heroic tales of knights in armor. While on vacation in Wales, Peter and his friend Gwyn tramp about the wilderness, exploring the ruined castle at Carreg Cennen and learning the history of the area from the knowledgeable Vicar of Llanferon. But something strange happens when Peter takes a nap near the ruins of the castle. When he wakes, he finds a mysterious ancient gauntlet on his arm, and to his shock, he is addressed as Peter de Blois by a man in medieval armor. Peter has been transported back to the 14th century!

Originally published in 1951, The Gauntlet is a fun and engrossing bit of historical fiction for young readers. Peter's adventures in 14th century Wales include details of life in a medieval castle, lessons in archery and falconry, a trip to the Abbey of Valle Crucis where Peter learns about the life of the Cistercian monks, a tournament, the relations between the Norman lords and the Welsh people, and a medieval siege and battle. The scenes are well set and the action is well described.

Peter is a boy of about 12 years, so the ideal reader for this book is probably about that age. That said, the book can easily be read and enjoyed by readers older or younger. Enhancing the text are about ten pen-and-ink illustrations which are of excellent quality, though a couple of them make Peter look strangely dainty.

Overall, The Gauntlet is a superb book, and a perfect introduction to the realities of life in the Middle Ages for younger readers. The book is available in several different editions, but I recommend the beautiful hardcover edition by Lepanto Press as pictured with this review.