You see, it’s from that line of Kipling’s, ‘Duke’s son-cook’s son-Son of a hundred kings…’…I think he meant that it doesn’t matter about such things because we’re all just about equal anyway.”
Son of a Hundred Kings is at heart a very simple story, one that begins in 1890 and is centered around Ludar Prentice. Orphaned (and his parentage very much a mystery to the reader), his wicked aunt sends him to his father in Canada without any money and a note sewn onto his back telling all and sundry where he’s to be delivered to. Ludar survives the long journey via ship and rail only to find an unhappy surprise waiting for him in Balfour. The town rallies ’round and tries to sort out his history (they all believe he might be a lost duke or something), but he eventually makes his home with the gentle, kind but very poor Billy Christian. Despite all the obstacles thrown in his path, Ludar retains his gentle nature and the reader watches him as he grows into a young man, a young many very much in love with the prettiest and wealthiest girl in town, Tony Milner – and while Tony returns his feelings she’s still very much beyond his reach. Or is she?
He looked up at the fence. When he was a boy it had seemed as high as the walls of Jericho or the ramparts of Front de Boeuf’s castle, and it had represented to him everything which divided them. It had never occurred to him that the time would come when it could be climbed.”
This isn’t one of those action packed type of books and may not suit every reader. As much as the book is about Ludar, it is also about the town and its quirky residents (Sloppy Bates was my favorite) and how their lives change as industry grows in the new century and the town must grow and change with it. I adored the way Costain wrote it, it feels like it was written by someone in the 1890’s and not the 1950’s. This is one of those savor slowly with a glass of red wine and chocolate books, and I loved every minute of it.