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Westmark

by Lloyd Alexander
Series: Westmark Trilogy #1
184 pages, Fantasy
Reviewed by Philo

Epic story, but rather dark. Should be read with caution.

Plot

Theo was only a printer’s devil in the small town of Dorning. That is, until he runs afoul of the Chief Minister Cabbarus’ tyrannous orders. He then wounds a soldier in the attempt to save the press, and ends up with a dead master and a price on his head. Questioning his beliefs about his own morals and the pith of humanity in general, young Theo travels through Westmark with a soft-hearted charlatan named Las Bombas and a dwarf named Musket, joins a band of revolutionaries led by one Florian, and finds himself falling in love with a street urchin called Mickle who has a mysterious past. But when Cabbarus himself takes an interest in Mickle and her abilities to ‘communicate with the deceased’ (a sham created by Las Bombas) which he wants to use to manipulate the dying King Augustine, the entire future of Westmark — as well as everything that Theo believes — is on the line.

Morality

Much of the book is centered on Theo asking himself questions about humanity and his own principals.

Count Las Bombas is a rogue, but it is obvious in his case that crime does not pay. His schemes usually get him in a lot of trouble.

Spiritual Content

King Augustine is obsessed with finding someone who can speak to the spirit of his dead daughter, the Princess Augusta.

At one point, Count Las Bombas dresses Mickle up as the "Oracle Priestess" and she pretends to communicate with people who have died.

Rina and Zara, two female revolutionaries, are referred to, jokingly, as ‘goddesses’ and ‘divinities’.

Violence

Theo almost kills a man when soldiers try to take down his master's press. A scuffle ensues. His master dies.

A man is found by two children after being attacked by an assassin. The children also pull a knife out of a man's body because it's a "good blade" and they want to keep it.

During the raid at Nierkeeping, a fight with guns and sabers breaks out. Justin, a revolutionary, gets his face sliced open and Theo almost shoots a man. Men die in the raid at Nierkeeping.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Wine is brought up several times, and Musket smokes a pipe.

Sexual Content

None.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

D-n is used once.

Conclusion

Westmark (and indeed, the entire Westmark trilogy) is a rather dark book. Its setting is reminiscent of the French revolution in that it entails the people rebelling against the aristocracy, except in this book the end is hopeful. The moral questions Westmark aroused were thought-provoking, and generated interesting conversation between me and fellow readers and philosophers. Although there is some violence and darkness in this short novel by Lloyd Alexander, I think I can safely recommend it to an audience over the age of 15.

Fun Score: 5
Values Score: 3
Written for Age: 13+

Review Rating:

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