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The Letter for the King is a fantasy series adapted from the work of acclaimed Dutch writer Tonke Dragt. Based on the book of the same name, released almost six decades ago, the book carries similar fantasy tropes you’ve been accustomed to; a chosen hero goes on a journey to save the world. Well, a similar story is one thing, but execution will make or break the potential of the show, whether the book and its story will find a new audience, or will this one just be another fantasy series in a long line of could’ve been.
The Letter for the King follows Tiuri, played by His Dark Materials alum Amir Wilson, who stumbles onto a mysterious letter, contents of which is important to the future of the three kingdoms of the realm. On his quest to deliver the letter for the King, Tiuri finds some friends and also on his heel are some ruthless enemies who want to stop the letter from reaching its required destination.
Watch: The trailer for the first season of The Letter for the King
Prince Viridian, played by Gijs Blom, is coming for the letter and also the three kingdoms, but Tiuri, along with his friends, will do whatever it takes to protect the letter and get it to where it needs to be. The battle between the warring Prince on the quest to conquer all and a reluctant hero who just wants to be a knight makes up for the first season of The Letter for the King.
There are obviously some current societal undertones in the series like the people from the North and South have different skin colors. Prince Viridian and his kingdom are on the lighter side of the spectrum while the people in the South are a little brown, and the difference in color and culture is also a driving factor for the Prince and his kingdom to invade the South.
We can see what the show is trying to say about our society, but at the heart of it all, The Letter for the King is still a YA fantasy show, which hopes to maybe scale the heights of The Witcher and come through on the Game of Thrones comparisons. Whether they can do it or not is to be seen, but there are some critics who have already seen the whole series, and here are some opinions about the first season of The Letter for the King.
Well, going through most of the early reviews, one thing is almost unanimous, the cast of the series is good. There was one who claimed there wasn’t enough independent identity of all the characters on screen but begrudgingly admitted to a fine performance by them nonetheless. And most of the good reviews were focused on the use of CGI, the diverse cast, the talent of the cast, and also a much cleaner version to the fantasy genre.
Patrick Gibbs, writing for Slug Mag said, “Between the emphasis on diversity in casting and some of the other story elements, it is safe to say that if you are the kind of person that thinks “Social Justice Warrior” is somehow an insult, this show isn’t for you. I found The Letter for the King to be a charming, rollicking adventure, and a pleasant diversion that makes for some seriously entertaining family viewing.”
Writing for TV Guide, Keith Phipps was also surprised by the fantasy elements and some twist in the series. He wrote, “The Letter for the King won’t offer many surprises to veteran fantasy fans, but they’re likely to be won over by the charismatic cast and impressive production values. And newcomers to fantasy series should be spellbound by all the clashing swords and misty mountains. It’s an ideal, unthreatening gateway to bigger, darker, fictional worlds.”
There was also one particular critic who was okay with the series as long as it stuck to the kid characters. He also said the show gained a little bit of identity down the line, but there was some problem following the series based on a source material few are familiar with.
Tim Stevens, for The Spool, said, “As with so many Netflix shows, this one carries the axiom, “it gets good if you stick with it.” The chemistry of the young actors makes the journey past that first episode of The Letter for the King worth it. However, that opener is dire enough; one could certainly appreciate a viewer simply deciding to move on to their next binge watch.”
Well, as with most movies and TV shows, it is not meant to be for everyone, and there were a few critics who were not happy with the way The Letter for the King unfolded. There was an obvious comparison to Game of Thrones and how this show is not the successor and also a recommendation to watch the original Dutch movie from 2008.
“The show is watchable enough and might serve as a useful way into medieval fantasy for younger audiences who aren’t yet ready for the more adult-orientated series that have recently dominated the genre, which is by no means a bad thing. It seems unlikely, however, that this is the next big fantasy series that Netflix might have hoped for. The hunt for the next Game of Thrones goes on…,” Patrick Cremona for Radio Times said.
The cast for The Letter for the King was lauded by almost all critics.
Josh Bell for CBR was a little harsh when he said, “Fans of the book already have a 2008 Dutch film version to watch, which most likely better captures what makes this story such an important piece of literature in its home country. Only fantasy fans who’ve blazed through every other streaming-TV offering and are desperate for something new are likely to get even meager satisfaction from The Letter for the King.”
The Rotten Tomatoes score for the series currently stands at 53%, which is a rotten score, it seems the show has some work to do to get a Fresh score. And for the question of whether you should see or skip The Letter for the King, the answer is simple, what else are you going to do during the self-quarantine period? Give it a go, something classic, sprinkled with something new could very well become your companion during these lonely times.
The Letter for the King will be available worldwide on 20 March 2020, only on Netflix starring Amir Wilson, Gijs Blom, Ruby Ashbourne Serkis playing Lavinia, Nathanael Saleh playing Piak, Thaddea Graham playing Iona, Islam Bouakkaz playing Arman, Jack Barton playing Foldo, Jonah Lees playing Jussipo, Emilie Cocquerel playing Queen Alianor, with Jakob Oftebro playing Crown Prince Iridium and Yorick van Wageningen playing King Favian.