Netflix Mini-Review – The Letter for the King: Who Loves the Knight-Life?

Netflix brings us an adaptation of a 1960s Dutch children’s book.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

The kingdom of Dagonaut  has been allied for millennia with the kingdom of Unauwen against the land of Eviellan. For over a thousand years, Eviellan managed to fight them off using their magic, but they finally lost due to the ruthless conquest led by Unauwen’s Prince Viridian (Gijs Blom). Tiuri (Amir Wilson) is a knight candidate in Dagonaut who was adopted by Sir Tiuri the Valiant (David Wenham). On the night of Tiuri’s final test for knighthood, he breaks his orders when a man named Vokia (Jan Bijovet) comes to the door begging for aid. Vokia takes him to a wounded knight (Ben Chaplin), who gives him a letter to deliver to King Favian of Unauwen in order to prevent a massacre. Tiuri takes the letter and vows to deliver it. Along the way he is aided by Lavinia (Ruby Ashbourne Serkis), the daughter of the mayor of Mistrinaut (Andy Serkis) and chased by Jaro (Peter Fernandino) and the Red Knights of Viridian as well as his fellow knight candidates Iona, Jussipo, Foldo, Arman, and squire Piak (Thaddea Graham, Jonah Lees, Jack Barton, Islam Bouakkaz, Nathanael Saleh). 

LftK - 1Cast
I like the colorful outfits. 

END SUMMARY

I had never heard of the series this was based on until this TV adaptation came out, but apparently that shouldn’t have surprised me too much since the English language edition didn’t come out until 2013. In the Netherlands, though, this is apparently a major work of young adult fiction. I do get the feeling from reading the summary of the source material, however, that there were a lot of adaptational changes. For example, Tiuri is adopted from Eviellan in this series, which apparently isn’t the case in the original. The biggest change, apparently, is that magic is explicitly real in this series, whereas the original series is just medieval fiction. I’m not saying that the change was caused by Game of Thrones, but you can’t prove it wasn’t.

LftK - 2Cave
Nope, definitely doesn’t resemble any other fantasy series.

I’m not sure about the description of the characters in the original series, but given that it was a book from the Netherlands in the 1960s, I’m guessing that the cast in the show is much more diverse than their literary counterparts. Rather than just being token changes, though, there are a few parts where the alteration is written in as a way of adding character development. For example, Iona is a female knight candidate and has a large chip on her shoulder about it, leading her to be more aggressive and intense than the other candidates. It’s nice to see some updates to series that don’t overpower the narrative but also are used for extra world building. 

LftK - 3Iona
Don’t mess with Iona.

The performances in the show are excellent and the setting is well-designed, although I question exactly how far horses can run in a day (just like in every other medieval series). The system of magic, not so much. It’s kind of a spoiler, so I won’t go into it, but there’s a few big twists that make me think they just wrote “magic does this” on several pages where anything else would seem ridiculous. The biggest problem with the show, though, is that it has a number of very slow parts and some of the “twists” seem like cop-outs. Overall, though, I thought it was worthwhile. 

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