Reviews Logo
SearchHomeContents PageSite Map
The First Two Lives of Lukas-Kasha
Lloyd Alexander
Puffin Books, 215 pages


Art: Brad Weinman
The First Two Lives of Lukas-Kasha
Lloyd Alexander
This author's many honors include Newbery Medals for The High King and The Black Cauldron and National Book Awards for The Marvelous Misadventures of Sebastian and Westmark. His recent book, The Arkadians received critical acclaim and appeared on the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award Master List. He and his wife live in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Arkadians
SF Site Review: The Iron Ring
Biography
Lloyd Alexander Tribute Site

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Chris Donner

Advertisement
It has been many years since I first read the story of Eilonwy and her relationship with the assistant pig master named Taran. Yet somehow that story remains fresh in my mind, as few others do. The admiration for a strongly independent female character, the overbearing friendliness of faithful Gurgi, and the fear of such creations as the Cauldron Born have stayed with me. I have remembered the Chronicles of Prydain and even Lloyd Alexander's name long after such details from other books from the same years of my life have faded away.

And now, I am reading another Lloyd Alexander novel, and finding it just as animated and memorable as those involving Taran, if not as long or as developed.

The First Two Lives of Lukas-Kasha is one of those rare novels that really transcends the barriers between children's literature and adult literature. This seems to be a special talent of Lloyd Alexander, as anyone who has read the Chronicles of Prydain knows. The wealth of meaning and simplicity of language here reminds me of the abilities of writers like Lewis Carroll and J.R.R. Tolkien, who have the same effect. As I read, I was continually amazed by how delightful the story was, as well as how creative and suggestive of ways in which the world and the people in it might be made better.

Lukas, who later becomes known as King Kasha, is a roguish youngster who refuses to do any work and lives by petty theft and playing pranks all day. Yet he is that harmless, enjoyable kind of rogue whose greatest crime is perhaps laziness and perhaps irresponsibility, yet is so clever and worldly wise that we end up admiring him rather than disliking him in any way. To draw from numerous sources, he's a bit like Dennis the Menace, Charlie Chaplin, and Gilligan, all wrapped into one.

The storyline is rather simple -- Lukas takes part in a magician's trick and ends up being transported to another world, where he is quickly hailed as king, based on a vague astrological prediction. He soon finds out that as king, he is free to lie around and eat and swim all day. However, he is expected to keep his nose out of the business of state.

At first this seems fine for the young ne'er-do-well, but soon the knowledge that he is king makes him think that perhaps he ought to be acting like a king. He figures he should at least write a law or two. Plus, he wants to go to the bazaar, and kings aren't allowed to go there, for their own good.

So Lukas sets himself up against the powers-that-be and tradition and all that -- basically he ends up having some pretty good ideas about how he should run things. These ideas are so good, and his politics are so bad, that he is quickly forced from the throne and finds himself fleeing for his life. Of course, there is a headstrong young girl involved, and a faithful companion too. The remainder of the story focuses on how Lukas tries to regain his throne and set things right.

Overall, The First Two Lives of Lukas-Kasha shows us all, young and old, how responsibility can mean a lot more than doing what we're told. In the dull, everyday world of his first "life," Lukas's antics and skullduggery brought colour and excitement to people's existence. In the chaotic and warlike world of his second "life," his level-headedness and knack for twisting words and meanings helps bring about peace.

But don't think the story is all seriousness and meaning. Just wait till you read the part where Lukas-Kasha talks a horse trader out of a golden dagger and an excellent horse. Of all the people Kasha manipulates, this poor horse trader is the only one I ended up really feeling sorry for, even though he was clearly a crooked man. And yet, I was still smiling.

Copyright © 1998 by Chris Donner

Chris Donner is a freelance writer and magazine editor living in Manhattan and working in Connecticut. He will read almost anything once, as it makes the train ride go faster. He is currently writing a screenplay, a novel, several short stories, a collection of poems, and a letter to his mother. The letter will probably be done first.


SearchContents PageSite MapContact UsCopyright

If you find any errors, typos or other stuff worth mentioning, please send it to editor@sfsite.com.
Copyright © 1996-2014 SF Site All Rights Reserved Worldwide