A Guest post from Adam Gidwitz:
Author of The Inquisitor's Tale
September 2016, Dutton Books
Q: SLJ cheerfully compared your book to a "quixotic holy quest", and I'll be honest: the book definitely gave me Monty Python and the Holy Grail vibes. Why do you think tales about quests are just so universally appreciated, especially by younger readers? What is it about the journey that they find so appealing?
Yes. Yes it would. Because the Middle Ages were pretty much exactly as crazy as those madmen at Monty Python made it out to be. While we found no evidence of living people thrown into wheelbarrows as if they were already dead (“I’m not dead yet!”), we did learn that peasants often slept with their cows. While we have no indication that a knight continued to fight a duel after he’d been entirely dismembered (“it’s only a flesh wound!”), we did discover an incredible story about a ninth century saint called Guilhelm who was attacked by brigands in the forest and killed them in equally bloody ways, including smashing their heads together so they exploded. And while no one accused anyone of smelling of elderberries (nor accused their mother of being a hamster), there was, the life of Saint Martha, a dragon whose farts smelled so bad that they would set you on fire. So the world of the Middle Ages was, arguably, even crazier than Monty Python depicted it.
If you read The Inquisitor’s Tale, and I really hope you do, because I researched it for over a decade and wrote it over the course of six years, you may find details that seem insane. You’ll read them and think, No. That’s not possible. Those, my friends, are the details that you should not doubt. I did not make up anything crazy for this book, because the facts of the Middle Ages are way, way weirder than fiction. And way more compelling, too.
But yes, it is also an epic quest story. Children love quest stories because they symbolize growth. But that’s why adults love them, too. GK Chesterton, in his brilliant essay “The Dragon’s Grandmother,” wrote, “Folk lore means that the soul is sane, but that the universe is wild and full of marvels. Realism means that the world is dull and full of routine, but that the soul is sick and screaming. The problem of the fairy tale is--what will a healthy man do with a fantastic world?” That is also the question of the quest. The Inquisitor’s Tale is about three deeply sane children, and their deeply sane dog, trying to save some books from a world gone insane. All heroes of quests are those who are deeply sane, struggling against the insanity of the world. Be the world insane with farting dragons and censorious kings or legless, armless knights, screaming impotently at a bridge in the forest—we recognize that world not as some exotic locale, or some distant time. We recognize it as an image of our own time, albeit seen through a bit of stained glass. We are the sane heroes who must survive it—and children are the sanest of us all.
Thank you so much for taking the time to write such a thoughtful, funny post, Adam! We loved your dissection of why young (and older!) readers love quest stories, and how it relates to our world.
Now. Want to read more about the book? Why not check out the rest of the tour?
Published September 27th 2016 by Dutton Books for Young Readers
Amazon | Indiebound | Book Depository | Goodreads
1242. On a dark night, travelers from across France cross paths at an inn and begin to tell stories of three children: William, an oblate on a mission from his monastery; Jacob, a Jewish boy who has fled his burning village; and Jeanne, a peasant girl who hides her prophetic visions. They are accompanied by Jeanne's loyal greyhound, Gwenforte . . . recently brought back from the dead.
As the narrator collects their tales, the story of these three unlikely allies begins to come together.
Their adventures take them on a chase through France to escape prejudice and persecution and save precious and holy texts from being burned. They’re taken captive by knights, sit alongside a king, and save the land from a farting dragon. And as their quest drives them forward to a final showdown at Mont Saint-Michel, all will come to question if these children can perform the miracles of saints.
So instead, I'm going to give YOU a finished copy. INT, enter below. just comment and say what you enjoyed about Adam's post!
Check out the rest of the tour!
Monday, 9/26: MundieKids
Tuesday, 9/27: Books 4 Your Kids
Tuesday, 9/27: Novel Novice
Wednesday, 9/28: Read Write Reflect
Wednesday, 9/28: The Reading Nook
Thursday, 9/29: Imagination Soup
Thursday, 9/29: Middle Grade Mafioso
Friday, 9/30: All The Wonders
Friday, 9/30: Book Blather