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The Chessmen Thief

Book Synopsis

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-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.

Our Review Panel says...

Set in the Viking era, The Chessmen Thief is an intriguing tale of 12-year-old Kylan’s quest to return to his mother having been captured by Norsemen when he was just 7 years old. However, with everything the Almighty keeps throwing his way, will he be able to make it?

Kylan – a thrall, a slave for a harsh and unforgiving craftsman – thinks all hope is lost and he will never get the opportunity to return to his home, the Southern Isles, to find his mother. His memory of her is beginning to fade, except her fiery red hair and an important message she gave him as she was whisked away… ‘The Isle of Lewis. It’s your home Kylan. Never forget it.’ When an opportunity presents itself, Kylan knows he has to summon all of his courage to ensure it doesn’t slip through his fingers. The Lewis Chessmen – which his master reluctantly let him help carve – are his only hope. However, great craftsmanship gains attention, including that of Sven Asleifsson, a cruel and barbaric Viking known throughout the realm.

Based on the real-life Lewis Chessmen (a group of distinctive 12th-century chess pieces discovered in 1831 on the Isle of Lewis), The Chessmen Thief is a great addition to existing Vikings-themed booklists – it does not shy away from subject-specific vocabulary, however, is an easy read and therefore may be a suitable choice for lower year groups within Key Stage 2. Barbara Henderson has carefully crafted the plot around the chess motif and the story is not overwhelmed with action and gore, as can often be the case with books written about this era. The narrative includes enough action to keep the reader engaged, however provides enough space for readers to wonder how the story will progress.

The book would particularly complement history topics for those teaching in Scotland, providing opportunities to find out about the Viking era closer to home.

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The Chessmen Thief: Reading Notes

A resource pack provided by the author to accompany the book The Chessmen Thief.

The Chessmen Thief

Book Details

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