Netflix's The Letter for the King, a loose adaptation of the book by Dutch author Tonke Dragt, begins with a prophecy about a Chosen One destined to save the world from evil. It is set in a medieval era replete with shamans, evil crown princes, spontaneous duels, and long horseback journeys across harsh landscapes.
Comparisons with HBO's long running series Game of Thrones is obvious though The Letter for the King has been made with a slightly younger audience in mind.
Amir Wilson as Tiuri in a still from The Letter for the King. Image via YouTube
The show revolves around 15-year-old Tuiri (Amir Wilson), the adoptive son of a knight expected to be his father's successor. The competitive trial to knighthood expects all novices to complete certain tasks, including an all-night vigil in a haunted chapel. Going against instructions, Tuiri breaks the vigil and opens the door to the squire of a dying knight (Ben Chaplin), who hands him with a special letter for King Favian. If undelivered, thousands of lives will be in peril. Being the honourable-would be knight that he is, Tuiri sets out to fulfill the late nobleman's quest, borrowing his incredibly perceptive stallion Aradnwen.
Of course, the mission is not simple. He is tailed by ruthless guards of the scheming Prince Viridian (Gijis Blom), his own fellow knights-in-training, and more. On the way to the city where Favian resides, Tuiri also encounters Lavinia (Ruby Serkis), who initially turns him in to her father (Andy Serkis) in hopes to claim the bounty, but eventually becomes his friend and most trusted ally. As the two sets of teens inch closer to their respective missions, they are unaware of Viridian's plans, revealed to the audience simultaneously as the story progresses.
The lush backdrop of the story and the period costumes do not make up for the lack of backbone in the tale, presented by William Davies. The protagonist, Tuiri, is predicable " we know he will go through hell and high water to accomplish the task assigned to his character.
While the supporting ones around him too have an element of predictability, they are still a pleasure to watch. There is the tough and bossy Iona (Thaddea Graham), a lute playing Arman (Islam Bouakkaz), the cautious and sensitive Foldo (Jack Barton), an annoying Jussipo (Jonah Lees), and the youngest member Piak (Nathanael Saleh).
The story is peppered with clichÃ©s from the beginning to the very end, and brings nothing new to the young adult fantasy genre. The Letter for the King does overturn the prophecy in the last episode but the plot twist is flat and seems unworthy of going through the first five episodes of the series. The brief romantic encounter between Foldo and Arman comes as a surprise because nothing could have led the audience to believe there was something brewing.
This Netflix show is a one-time watch, especially for those searching for a watered-down Game of Thrones replacement or want to introduce the fantasy genre to their kids without the graphic sexual content and bloodshed.
The Letter for the King is currently streaming on Netflix.
Rating: ** 1/2