Romance Saturday Returns with Elizabeth A. Lightfoot’s “The Ugly Knight”

Romance Saturday is back at Shiny Book Review!

Elizabeth A. Lightfoot’s THE UGLY KNIGHT is about Korten, a not-so-handsome youngster out to make a name for himself. He’s resolute, steadfast, hard-working…you’d think you should hate the guy, except he’s so likeable, he wears you down.

Anyway, after apprenticing with a noted knight for many years, Korten rides off to seek his fortune. If he can defeat a dragon, he’ll become a knight and have the opportunity to marry a princess. So, of course, he’s on his way to the nearest castle that’s actually being threatened by a dragon.

While at the castle, Korten befriends an elderly servingwoman, and also becomes friends with a young and hard-working servant girl, Elzi. He feels much more comfortable with them than the princess, who’s rather snooty and looks down at Korten because Korten isn’t exactly a handsome lad.

But if you’re thinking “handsome is as handsome does,” you’re right. Korten has more to him than looks; he’s resourceful, honest, and has a bone-deep kindness to him. In some ways, he doesn’t like the idea of killing any dragons, even though it’s necessary to the plot that he do so…besides, dragons have a way to enthrall humans, and are big into manipulation and coercion. (In other words, they’re not nice critters.)

So Korten finds a way to kill the dragon. Which he must, or the story can’t progress.

The good thing about THE UGLY KNIGHT is that everything after this point is a little surprising.

Korten rejects the high-and-mighty princess and rejects his chance to rule immediately, partly because his heart has already been given elsewhere. Instead, he’s set his heart on Elzi.

But rather than settle down with her somewhere, he still wants to be a knight who does things that matter. So the two of them engage in some necessary action, all while trying to find out aspects of Elzi’s mysterious past…

Ultimately, Korten must forge his own, true path, while in the process figure out just exactly what being a knight is all about. Only then can he and Elzi have the future of their dreams.

THE UGLY KNIGHT is Ms. Lightfoot’s first novel, and is a welcome young adult fable. It has charm, a cute and age-appropriate romance, and there’s plenty of action.

The main problem I had with THE UGLY KNIGHT is that it’s only about 40,000 words — a very short novel, or perhaps a long novella in length. Because it’s so short, there are things I didn’t get to see that I wanted to see: namely, how did Korten and Elzi do as a couple, once Korten finally declares himself? And what happens to some of the other people introduced here, including the nasty princess, the handsome and somehow squicky squire Jelan, and the sprightly child Jelania?

In other words, THE UGLY KNIGHT is a good story. I enjoyed it, and I want to see more from the author.

But it should’ve been longer.

In addition, there are a few issues with the editing that concerned me. None interfered with the plot, thank goodness. But it was enough to take a book that probably was in the A-minus category as a debut effort and turn it into a B-plus instead.

Bottom line: THE UGLY KNIGHT is a fresh, fun, and enjoyable debut with a likeable protagonist and a sweet, old-fashioned romance, and is appropriate for anyone aged ten and up.

Grade: B-plus

–reviewed by Barb

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