Middle-grade book review of The Chessmen Thief by Barbara Henderson
Win. Lose. Survive.
I was the boy with a plan. Now I am the boy with nothing.
From the moment 12-year-old Kylan hatches a plan to escape from his Norse captors, and return to Scotland to find his mother, his life becomes a dangerous game.
The precious Lewis Chessmen pieces—which he helped carve—hold the key to his freedom, but he will need all his courage and wit to triumph against Sven Asleifsson, the cruellest Viking in the realm.
One false move could cost him his life.
Barbara Henderson has woven a thrilling origin story around the enduring mystery of the Lewis Chessmen, their creation in Norway, and how they ended up buried in the Hebrides before being discovered on Lewis in 1831.
My Thoughts after Reading
This story is perfectly pitched for middle-grade.
Our protagonist is a slave boy determined to return to his roots and find his mother. His ability to speak Gaelic and carve ivory into chess pieces convinces a prominent man to take him away from Norway on this journey to Scotland.
This books has Vikings, pirates and sea adventures. It also has plenty of heart: a young slave separated from his mother, seeking his freedom.
I love it that this story was inspired by the famous 12th century Lewis chess pieces found on a Scottish beach. A must read for chess and history lovers. 4/5
If you are looking for middle-grade books with a chess theme, also check out Check Mates.