Demonstrating Character: A Review of ‘Prince Martin Wins his Sword’

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“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” – C. S. Lewis

Reading Level

Ages 6-9

Review and Comments

If you are looking for a book full of action, Prince Martin Wins His Sword by Brandon Hale is a good choice. It is a story of courage, friendship, and the strength and faithfulness of a father.   

Prince Martin lives in a castle surrounded by knights, their code of behavior, and their amazing weapons.  Martin aspires to have his very own sword one day.  He also has an undisclosed dream to own a faithful and brave dog, but the sword is his great desire.  His father, the King, wisely makes the judgment that Martin is much too young for a sword and that his staff and sling is enough for him at this point in his life. He explains that when Martin demonstrates that he is brave, loyal, and true, he will be deemed worthy to own a sword.  This is a goal Martin hopes to reach, but he has no idea how he will achieve those very lofty traits.

Not long after that, Martin begins his quest when he leaves the castle with only his sling and staff. Along the way, he is warned about some very dangerous wild hogs. It doesn’t take long for Martin to realize he is getting close to serious trouble, and he experiences real fear and self-doubt.  He remembers his father’s words, “If you give into to fear, all you’ll know is defeat.” So, when a panicked deer begs Martin to save her child from the wild hogs, he knows he has to “do the thing he feared.”  The scene of the battle is fierce.  A lone dog named Sir Raymond is protecting the fawn and barely keeping the hogs at bay.  The hogs are not only physically fighting the dog; they are taunting him about the hopelessness of his resistance. Martin joins the fray and the two warriors “fight as a team.” Eventually, the hogs are defeated and run away, and the young deer is safe.

Martin and the dog both suffer from battle wounds, but the dog’s wounds are very serious. Martin actually carries the dog, with great difficulty, to the castle. At one point Sir Ray tells Martin to leave him.  Martin is tempted to do just that because he is weak and tired, but he decides “he won’t take the easy way out.”  As he approaches the castle he sees his father watching for him.  The King runs to his son and carries both Martin and the Sir Ray back to the castle.

A few days later Martin and Sir Ray are well enough to see each other once again.  Sir Ray has already reported to the King about Martin’s bravery in battle and his refusal to give up when things were difficult. The King is proud that his son showed such amazing character. He gives Martin his own childhood sword with instructions that the sword must never “be used in anger, revenge, or greed.” 

This is not the end of the story.  There are more adventures in this series with Martin and Sir Raymond confronting thieves and dragons.

The eight, short chapters in this book are written in rhyme and yet the story flows very well with this style. I am in awe of the talent of the author!  The extensive vocabulary will certainly enrich readers in this age group.  It might also spur further investigation into this period in history.  After listening to the story, a young boy was curious about the new vocabulary words in the first chapter.  He investigated: moat, drawbridge, and lots and lots of weapons and armor from this period.  This is the picture he was inspired to draw.

Three reviews of a young reader and listeners:

Lily, 7 years old:  “I didn’t like the story very much because of the hogs.  I’m not a fan of harsh animals.  I like Sir Ray because he is brave.  Martin is thoughtful; he cares for the dog and deer.”  

Wyatt, 5 years: “I like the battle with the wild hogs and how Martin gets his sword. I like the pictures.”

Cody, 4 years old: “I like the story.  I like when Martin fights the hogs.  I like that the dog was protecting the deer.”

Possible Concerns

There are no concerns with this book.

Further Discussion

Vocabulary:

The story includes excellent vocabulary:

condone, character, virtue, impatient, delay, despair, trait, yield, sowing, sharecropper, route, lurking, bristly, resolve, grit, trod, retreat, barring, fate, impact, cinch, immense, marred, gnaw, awed, bouts, composure, encroach, combat, regroup,  stance, one-on-one, fiend, gale, prevail, gouged, billow,  canine, bravado, skedaddled, gored, shirk,  hoist, abandoned, commence, trudge, heights, spire, plight, dire, slog, lopsided, cur, errant, weary, parched, plodded, bore, abate, distress, critique, incur, wrought, exquisitely, unsurpassed, wield

A good portion of the vocabulary in this story certainly conveys a medieval setting:

drawbridge, moat, armory, armor, knight, gauntlet, bludgeons, mace, halberds, lance partisan, long sword, backsword, claymore, tucks, gladius, broadsword, harpes, falchions, saber, pillage and plunder, quest, scabbard

Did you know?

  • The code of chivalry that developed in medieval Europe had its roots in earlier centuries. It arose in the Holy Roman Empire from the idealization of the cavalryman—involving military bravery, individual training, and service to others—especially in Francia, among horse soldiers in Charlemagne‘s cavalry.”  
  • “There was not an authentic Knights Code of Chivalry as such – it was a moral system which went beyond rules of combat and introduced the concept of Chivalrous conduct – qualities idealized by knighthood, such as bravery, courtesy, honor, and gallantry toward women. Knights should be brave and fearless in battle but would also exhibit cultured Knightly qualities showing themselves to be devout, loyal, courteous and generous.

What is your dream?

Martin’s story begins with a dream for the future.  Write about your dream for the future?

  1. What virtues will you use to realize your dream?
  2. Who will advise and help you fulfill your dream?
  3. How do you think your dream will affect your life?  Will it improve the life of anyone else?

Rhyming:

Read the other books in the Prince Martin Series

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Catholic Resources

Patron Saints of Knights:

Michael the Archangel [feast day September 29]

St. George

St. James the Greater [feast day May 3]

“Six Saints Who Were Extremely Courageous Soldiers”:

St. Ignatius of Loyola

St. Joan of Arc

St. Sebastian

St. Francis of Assisi

St. George

St. Thomas Beckett

St. John the Apostle [the patron saint of loyalty] is undoubtedly an excellent of example and role model of what it means to be loyal. “John was the only one of the Twelve Apostles who did not forsake the Savior in the hour of His Passion. He stood faithfully at the cross when the Savior made him the guardian of His Mother.”

Staff and Sling:

Martin was armed with only a staff [which signifies power] and a sling. This brings to mind the story of David [1 Samuel 17: 40-50] who also used a staff and a sling.

A Father’s Hope:

When Martin approaches the castle he sees his father keeping watch for him because he never lost hope.  He runs to his son, picks him up, and carries him back to the castle. This is reminiscent of the story of the Prodigal Son [Luke 15]

A Prayer for Protection and Safety:
“The Light of God”
The light of God surrounds us,
The love of God enfolds us,
The power of God protects us,
The presence of God watches over us,
Wherever we are, God is,
And where God is, all is well.

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