My memory of this series is that it was the most important anti-war books that I had read. I frequently thought about it when I was reading the second and third books of the Hunger Games.
And re-reading it 25 or so years later, I understand why the books have stuck with me. But like many young adult books that I have read again as an adult, the story is much less detailed and explicit than I remember.
In Westmark, Mickle, the princess, is found again and restored to her parents. Theo, the teen that fell in love with her, saved her life and helped her find her way back to her parents, has been given the task of traveling throughout the country to find out what the mood of the land is and how the King can improve the country. This is also a way to keep Mickle and Theo apart while they mature and to see if they really are in love.
While they are apart, Carrabas (who Theo saved and the King exiled at the end of the last book) has encouraged Regina, a kingdom to the north, to invade. This is only accomplished because a number of nobles and members of the military work with Regina to see it accomplished.
With the Westmark military in shambles it is only the people, and Florian’s rebels that can push Regina back.
This is a morally complex book. Military ethics, war, death, torture are all present. And while this is not a graphically violent book, much of the book concerns war and many characters are killed.
Theo eventually becomes one of the commanders and allows his rage to take over. He eventually suffers from what could be labeled PTSD. I remember that being a much more important part of the book. But it was a much small part and his recovery was much easier than I would have liked. But it is a young adult book. It is appropriate for 12-15 year olds to read.
This is a book that takes seriously the realities of war and death and it has a general theme against war.
But more importantly, the general theme of the trilogy is that growing up involves doing what is needed, not what you necessarily want. I think it is a theme that many coming of age novels do not engage nearly enough.
Theo and Mickle are continually kept apart in the trilogy because of duty. I think the series is worth reading just for that theme alone.
The Kestrel by Lloyd Alexander Purchase Links: Paperback – this book is out of print, so only used copies are available
- Westmark by Lloyd Alexander (first book in the trilogy)