Review: The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp by Rick Yancey

Alfred Kropp (hc)The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp by Rick Yancey
Publication: Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books (September 15, 2005), Hardcover, 375 pages / ISBN 1582346933
Genre: Adventure, Action, YA/Teen
Find @ Amazon or IndieBound
Challenges: Arthurian Challenge 2009-2010 (#1)
Read: August 2009
First sentence: I never thought l would save the world-or die saving it.

In one sentence: Mopey knights, magnificent fights, and a marvelously unusual lead.

I found this on the same shelf as Tanglewreck, and while I didn’t like it as much as Tanglewreck I did enjoy reading The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp. I liked the unusual protagonist, and the bringing of old-fashioned characters (very Malorian characters, here) into the modern world is interesting. I liked it, mostly.

Summary from Amazon:

Alfred Kropp was just trying to survive high school when his guardian uncle gets him roped into a suspicious get-rich-quick scheme that changes his life forever: stealing Excalibur—the legendary sword of King Arthur. But after Alfred unwittingly delivers the sword into the hands of a man with enormously evil intentions, he sets off on an unlikely quest to try to right his wrong and save the world from imminent destruction.

There are lots of nifty little things in Alfred Kropp besides the Arthurian connection, like how Alfred is an atypical hero-who-isn’t-really, musings on what makes a hero a hero, things about responsibility and duty, and best of all: a secret organization that investigates unusual stuff, à la MIB or X-Files. I liked Alfred, though he isn’t the most easy of characters to read about (his “voice” is very even and nearly emotionless, even when he’s talking about emotions). (He reminds me of the narrator in Freak the Mighty, if that gives any idea of what he was like.) I even grew to like the mopey knights wandering around in the background.

Arthurian knights are inordinately mopey, and the knights in this book is no different. Well, maybe “mopey” isn’t the right word, but they do tend to have a self-sacrificing kind of attitude hanging around them, and while it’s noble and even sometimes useful, it’s also overdone and slightly annoying. Not that I expect people going to their death to be cheery, but it would have been nice to have a break from the gloom.

For some reason Alfred Kropp seemed like an old-fashioned Arthurian book set in the modern world. It’s very gothic and dark and resigned to talk about horrible things. The knights (and people in direct contact to them) are very old school and…stolid, I guess. They didn’t entirely seem like real people, but more like representations of different kinds of knight characters. They didn’t quite fit into the modern world, and that made the whole thing very interesting, especially as Alfred starts to take on some of their characteristics while still remaining a modern person. But those kinds of knights do tend to be dusty, nearly bland characters, and that’s no exception here.

Alfred Kropp isn’t on the same wavelength as The Sword and the Stone, but it’s still a very interesting take on the Arthurian myth. It’s a little old fashioned, a little bit bloody (okay, a lot bloody), and a lot exciting. I liked it, and you probably will, too!

Get your own copy from Amazon or your favorite independent bookstore!

What Arthurian books are your favorites? I like The Sword and the Stone and even some of the older books, but I haven’t read much more. I need some for a challenge, so bring on the recs, please!

Other reviews: A Catholic Mom’s Guide to Books | Interactive Reader | Bookshelves of Doom

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