Saxon Tales: The King Who Threw Away His Throne

Written by Terry Deary
Review by Elizabeth Hawksley

Books by Terry Deary are always popular for younger children, and this is one of his new Saxon Tales. The King who Threw Away his Throne is set in 5th-century Britain and is about King Vortigern—who may or may not have existed. The Dictionary of National Biography names him as the king who invited the Germanic chieftains, Hengist and Horsa, to Britain to help fight the Scots and the Saxons—with the inevitable result. However, in spite of the story being in Bede’s History and in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, modern scholarship suggests that all three of them are more mythic than real.

Deary gives King Vortigern’s Welsh scullery boy, Mervyn, the major role. It is Mervyn who watches as Hengist and Horsa outwit Vortigern, just as he knew they would. And, when Vortigern flees back to Wales and tries to build a new castle, it is Mervyn, the teller of marvellous tales, who discovers why the castle keeps falling down. And it is Mervyn, a.k.a. Merlin, who, with the help of another king, Arthur, will one day deal with the marauding Anglo-Saxons.

Tambe’s witty illustrations aid our understanding of the historical setting. Children of 6+ should enjoy this book.