1929: The Trumpeter of Krakow, a Tale of the Fifteenth Century

Verdict: Trash

Sally’s Rating: 2/5

Eric Kelly’s The Trumpeter of Krakow follows the adventures of Joseph, a young boy who gets caught up in a plot of intrigue, mystery, and magic in fifteenth-century Krakow. After getting accosted by a stranger, Joseph uncovers a family secret that is dangerous, powerful, and desired by others. This secret puts him face-to-face with danger, as his family must find a way to keep a mysterious crystal out of the wrong hands.

Despite having an intriguing plot, the story moves at a snail’s pace. Burdened by lots of description, especially in the action scenes, the book lost my interest about half way through. The Trumpeter of Krakow had the potential to be an exciting adventure, but its cast of characters were dull and lackluster. The one redeeming factor, though, was that the main female character got a chance to shine as the hero in one chapter of the book before getting relegated to the sidelines again as a supporting character. The problem is that the characters fail to drive the action, and, as a result, the story loses its sense of urgency. While it’s perfectly fine to have a plot-driven story, it’s hard to feel anything for the characters because their only purpose is support the plot rather than develop along with the story.

The city of Krakow is the true heart of the book. The author highlights every aspect of the city, writing his own little love letter to Poland, page by page. It was easy to imagine the trumpeter standing on top of the church tower, ready to play his melody, and envision the duel that happened on the street of pigeons. By the time the fire rages through the city, you feel as though you have walked through the ancient streets and alleys. Kelly is able to infuse his work with a sense of timelessness, which is further shown through the sketches by Polish artist Angela Pruszynska. For those who want to step back into fifteenth-century Poland, this book allows your imagination to whisk you away to that faraway world.

While The Trumpeter of Krakow falls prey to the weaknesses of the other 1920’s Newbery winners, it is one of the better ones of the decade – especially if you like historical fiction with a dash of intrigue.

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