The Untameables by Clare Pollard – at a glance
The School Reading Lists’ five word review: Fantasy, adventure, legends, friendship, bravery.
Children’s book title: The Untameables.
Children’s author: Clare Pollard.
Children’s illustrator: Reena Makwana.
Genre: Historical Fiction.
Published by: The Emma Press.
Recommended for children aged: 8-12.
First published: Paperback March 2024.
This children’s book is ideal for: KS2 & KS3 history fans & knights in-training.
To see the latest price or order, click on the book cover image.
Welcome to Camelot, the home of King Arthur.
Yes, it’s real.
I know it’s hard to imagine …. but it’s important to try.
Despite living in the supposedly heroic Camelot, young dog-keeper Roan dislikes the very idea of heroes. His father was killed in one of King Arthur’s battles and Roan hates any form of violence, refusing to join in with the other boy’s mock fights. Roan works with the untameables – animals that have displeased the castle’s knights in some way, often by refusing an order, and must now be kept hidden to avoid death.
As well as dealing with the casual cruelty of the animals’ knight-masters, Roan is also looking after his outspoken little sister and increasingly ill mother. When King Arthur, bored of endless battles and killing unicorns, challenges his knights to find the Holy Grail, Roan hopes that the Grail’s supposed healing powers can save his mother. He teams up with resourceful kitchen maid Elva who is on her own quest for the Grail in the hope that it will cure her twisted spine and save her from life as an outcast.
Roan and Elva are helped on their quest by a number of magical creatures, including elves, giants and the fabled Lady of the Lake. As they travel, they come to realise that the stories they’ve been told all their lives about the brave Knights of the Round Table hide a much darker tale of violence and destruction. Roan and Elva may be Camelot’s only chance to claim the Grail and heal their troubled land.
Sometimes miracles happen. Not always, it’s true. But sometimes good beats evil… Sometimes we’re saved.
The legends of King Arthur and Camelot have been re-told so many times that they’ve become cliché – heroic knights rescuing fair maidens from evil sorcerers or terrifying dragons. The Untameables presents a different view, one where the heroes are not always (or even often) perfect, and where ordinary people can show the most bravery. In this (more realistic) Camelot, princesses can rescue themselves and knights are more concerned with boasting to their roundtable comrades that defending the people.
History is written by the powerful, who can never resist tweaking it a bit.
Themes of independence, respecting others and standing up for your own truth run throughout the book, giving young readers a powerful story of tolerance and inner strength. There is also a highly relevant message about protecting the land’s natural (and magical) resources, that will fit well with today’s eco-conscious readers.
The short chapters, gentle humour and engaging illustrations make for an appealing read. The writing style is sharp and accessible, often feeling like an oral storytelling session, as befits the author’s experience as a poet.
Roan’s vulnerability and Elva’s strength nicely flip the traditional gender roles that are often found in historical fiction, giving young readers a pair of well-rounded and identifiable protagonists to root for.
The Untameables is a charming tale of friendship and bravery that will appeal to fans of Kate DiCamillo and Eva Ibbotson.
Many thanks to The Emma Press for the review copy.
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If you like The Untameables by Clare Pollard you might also like: our reviews of My Family and Other Romans by Marie Basting, Circus Maximus: Rider of the Storm by Annelise Gray, Vita and the Gladiator by Ally Sherrick, The Week at World’s End by Emma Carroll and Time School: We Will Honour Them by Nikki Young.
Browse our lists of History books