that's nice! A little while ago I was a partner;
suddenly I'm downgraded to a beast
Sebastian Darke is bound for the
faraway city of Keladon,
hopes to take up residence in
the court of King Septimus, as a royal jester.
Sebastian's late father was
a jester. A very good one. But his son is
somewhat less talented, and
all his attempts at good humour fall on the dour
ears of his companion, Max the
talking buffalope. Max is particularly
miffed by his perceived lack of status.
Is he Sebastian's partner on
this perilous journey, or merely a
beast of burden?
Soon the bickering boy and bull are
joined by a defiant warrior midget
called Cornelius, and in no time
the newly-formed trio are rescuing a spoilt
young girl from the clutches of a
band of filthy brigands. Only, she's no
ordinary spoilt girl. She's
Princess Kerin of Keladon, and she's surely their
ticket to wealth and happiness
in the court of King Septimus.
Oh, but Septimus has other plans.
Mr Darke and his friends have
undone all his hard work. Now
he has to to find a new way to be rid of
his insufferable niece. And
whilst he's at it, he'll have to get rid of her
detestable new friends as well. If
Sebastian can just see beyond
the backbiting, he might discover
the danger they're in...
Philip Caveney has written a
number of books for adults, but this is
his first children's novel.
And Max has his own
tale in the offing. "A Buffalope's Tale" will tell
story, in his own dour words...
Here's a book that's stuffed-to-busting
with swash and buckle and above
all, banter. Sebastian Darke
and his buffalope Max are a most unlikely
double act who spend a greater
portion of our tale trading insults,
wry backhands and pithiness.
Max believes he's a well-cultered bull
in a somewhat common china shop.
He's akin to a Paranoid Android
at times, and his comments are
often very dry and very funny. Max's
merry bidding at a slave auction
is great fun, likewise his insufferable
comments whenever he feels put upon,
ignored or abandoned. Which
However, whilst dour Max may
be clearly defined, young Sebastian
is a bit more blurred around
the edges. He's billed as being a rather
hapless jester, and one immediately
thinks of the familiar nerd about
town. But in reality, Sebastian
is quick to learn, and his half-ellf,
half-human good looks and insight
defy the usual depiction of such
a character. Give him a sword
and he quivers at first, but it doesn't
take him very long to wield
it confidantly, when needs must...
Meanwhile, all that bubbling
banter disguises what is, actually, a rather
familiar pantomime plot. Yes,
there's lots of action and double-crossing
and a daring last-minute rescue straight
out of Robin Hood. But these
stunts have already appeared in any
number of stories and films. The
author has gone out of his way
to create a sprawling fantasy realm.
Why can't we have more magic
but this Gnome's such a fussy fellow. You'd think he didn't like
this book at all. So let's just
state right now, younger readers will surely
lap up this adventure, and even
if they don't, all that verbal table tennis
can't fail to engage. With its pseudo-medieval setting
and witty repartee,
"Prince of Fools" is akin
to "Blackadder", for kids. And just as Edmund
and company hopped from location
to location with each new series,
so Sebastian, Max and Cornelius
are set to return - interfrastically
even - in a second adventure that
tosses them on to the High Seas.
This time, they're on a treasure
hunt which looks like it will transform
into a Sparrow-sized romp, stuffed
with cutthroats and cutlasses.
And, hopefully, lots more bull.
By the way, David Wyatt's dust
jacket is foolishly good. And that hat
motif will no doubt transform
into something suitably piratical for the
When the book was first published,
Philip Caveney took up his pen
and signed 4,000 first editions...