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Review: Max & the Midknights

Cover of Max & the Midknights

Max & the Midknights
by Lincoln Peirce
Crown Books for Young Readers, $13.99 (hardcover)
Ages 8-12

Lincoln Peirce, the author of Big Nate, takes us to a fantasy land in a sword-and-sorcery tale with kid protagonists, told in the popular mixed-media format of short text sections interspersed with comics.

Max is voyaging with Uncle Budrick, a struggling troubadour. As an apprentice, Max is supposed to become a traveling entertainer, just because of family expectations. However, Max is more practical, smarter, courageous, and very competent, which makes her (yes, her) the perfect choice when it comes to attempting to overthrow the ruling tyrant.

King Conrad the Kind disappeared, presumed dead, and his brother Gastley took the throne. The people are now meaner, and times are worse. After a series of incidents, Max and a new gang of kid friends, aided by Mumblin the magician and some others met along the way, set out to rescue the uncle from the castle, since he’s been taken to be the king’s fool. They also wind up fighting an evil witch and encountering all kinds of frightening creatures.

There are a lot of great vocabulary words included, most of which are promptly explained by someone in the story. The obvious message of the story, beyond the importance of having a good, admirable, honest leader, is that people should be allowed to become what they want regardless of family or gender. That comes through a wide-ranging adventure told with plenty of humor. A ton of things happen, with something new every few pages.

It is unfortunate that, of all the kids, Simon, the dark-skinned boy, is developed the least. Kevyn has a motivation similar to Max, as he doesn’t want to go into his father’s business. Millie gains an important skill as they travel. But Simon only has a sad story about how his parents, brainwashed by the evil king, abandoned him. He’s exposition more than a character. That’s the only major flaw in an enjoyable fantasy quest.

The second volume in the series, Battle of the Bodkins, will be out in December 2020.

Johanna About Johanna

Johanna Draper Carlson has been reviewing comics for over 20 years. She manages, the longest-running independent review site online that covers all genres of comic books, graphic novels, and manga. She has an MA in popular culture, studying online fandom, and was previously, among many other things, webmaster for DC Comics. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.

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