The Knights of Neustria
NOMINATED FOR THE THE CILIP CARNEGIE & KATE GREENAWAY CHILDREN'S BOOK AWARD
Details & Summary
But do these answers link to the messages encoded in the work of the greatest writer who ever lived; William Shakespeare? And will the Secret Breakers be able to break the hidden codes before those in Level Five of the Black Chamber close in ever tighter! And how will the ancient brotherhood, The Knights of Neustria, help them in their quest to make sense of MS 408…and most importantly, help them to stay alive!
The Secret Breakers need as much help as they can get at the start of Book Three and so it’s a good job that Fabyan has returned from America to be with them. Fabyan’s money has already been vital to the team but he has more than money to help them! Fabyan’s a ‘mystery collector’, just like his great grandfather, and some of the unusual curiosities he brings with him from Riverbank Labs, Illinois, might just help the team make the breakthrough they need! You can find out more about Fabyan on the Who’s Who in Book Three page. And if you want to know about the strange contraption he brought to help break the codes then check out the Secrets To Break Page and have a look at the information about the Shakespeare Mangle!
Book Three is jam packed with more new codes to break and I hope you’ll have fun reading all about them and seeing how they move the adventure along! There’s an ancient anagram code; a ‘random break code’ hidden in the pages of ‘Morte D’Arthur’; a cryptic message on a spoon as well as a very complicated form of steganography (which means hiding a message in the way it is written)! The codes are getting harder and so are the risks to the team. In fact, you can’t be sure that everyone is going to survive this adventure!
To find out more about some of the codes contained in the story then check out the Secrets to Break Page.
In ‘The Power of Three’ there were several references to the legends of King Arthur. Remember how important the information about Excalibur and the Scabbard were to making sense of the codes? At the end of ‘Orphan of the Flames’, Brodie gets hold of a very important book and she’s sure this ancient and banned copy of ‘Morte D’Arthur’, by Malory, will be vital in helping them make sense of MS 408.
I’m fascinated by the legends of King Arthur. There’s so much incredible writing about this King and his court. I’m particularly fond of Tennyson’s poems about Arthur (a fact you might want to remember!) There’s lots of debate about whether King Arthur was an actual person but I like to believe that all legends have their basis in truth somehow.
The writer of ‘Morte D’Arthur’, Thomas Malory, was a prisoner in London’s Newgate Gaol and to keep busy he began to write a book about the legendary king. His book was re-titled Le Morte D’arthur by William Caxton who produced the first printed edition in 1485. Until 1934, Caxton’s was the only known version of Malory’s text. Then an unusual manuscript was discovered by a librarian in a safe at Winchester College. This version of the book was hand written. Interestingly it had strange markings on the page. These marks were ink marks where freshly printed pages from a printing press had been left to dry on the paper. The librarian worked out that the manuscript he’d found must have been the one typesetters who worked for Caxton copied from when they were preparing the printing presses ready to print.
I loved the idea of the manuscript having extra markings on it…which in a way told a story…and so my copy of ‘Morte D’Arthur’ has a hidden story too! It takes the Shakespeare Mangle to fully reveal it to Team Veritas!
You should check out some of the stories written about Arthur and his Knights. They are fabulous stories and it’s no mistake that a book about King Arthur has been chosen to hide a message for the Secret Breakers to discover.
At the end of ‘Orphan of the Flames’ we learnt that Friedman has been keeping a very important secret from the team. He was there when Brodie’s mum died, a fact he’d never shared before. He’s missing from the team in this book and Brodie thinks he’s abandoned them and changed sides to work with Level Five. Careful readers will know this isn’t true…but Brodie doesn’t know this! Do you think the team will ever see him again? Do you think we’ll ever get to know more about Friedman? Are there more secrets to break?
Talking of secrets, you might have been able to work out that there were things Friedman was hiding from Brodie, by discovering a secret message hidden on the pages of ‘Orphan of the Flames’. Maybe you should make sure that you’ve checked over your copy of ‘The Knights of Neustria’ really carefully in order to make sure there aren’t extra messages hiding there too, waiting for you to find!
Lots of the action of Book Three takes place away from Station X and so I was able to write about some very exciting places.
Of course there’s a secret location, which I shall tell you all about if you click on the link below, but because there were so many fascinating places, the bottom section of this page contains details about my favourite five locations described in ‘The Knights of Neustria.’ Be sure to check back here when you’ve seen all there is to see at the Secret Location!
Favourite Five Locations from Book Three
For most of the adventure in Book Three, the team are far away from Station X. This doesn’t mean that they are away from places packed with history and fascinating stories though, as I like to write about places that almost have a character all of their own! Check out these amazing locations that feature in the adventure of ‘The Knights of Neustria’ and see which one is your favourite.
Old Hall, Highgate
The Old Hall, Highgate, is all that remains of the Earl of Arundel’s estate where Sir Francis Bacon apparently went to die. The idea of secret corridors and false walls to hide art work, and maybe even people, was one I read about as I was researching my story! No one can deny Bacon’s connection to the house, as one of the lanes nearby has taken on his name. What is in doubt is whether he actually died in the house. Don’t forget he was well enough hours before he supposedly died to write quite a long and detailed ‘deathbed letter’. I’ll leave it up to you to decide for yourself what you think really happened in Highgate!
Don’t you love the image on the front of ‘The Knights of Neustria’ showing a castle in the middle of a terrible storm? It’s another example of Richard Collingbridge’s amazing skills! And the castle is Chepstow Castle and you know how important this is to the plot of the story! I love this photograph as it shows how close the castle is to the River Wye…and you can see from the clouds that a storm is brewing! Can you imagine Dr Owen and his men digging in the River Wye just beside the castle looking for secret clues from Shakespeare? Does the artist’s impression on the front of the newspaper help you imagine the scene? And can you imagine how frustrated Dr Owen was not to find anything? If only he’d put together the clues the Secret Breakers worked with in order to find the treasure!
While chatting with a friend about the edit of Book Three, I decided I had to include a scene at the Mathematical Bridge in Cambridge. I knew Hunter would know all about it and it would be a perfect location to hold a secret meeting! Hunter explains that it’s a myth that the bridge was once held up without any bolts, but the tangents of wood are taking a lot of the strain and the bolts were hidden in the original design, so you can see where the idea came from! It’s dead clever…and really beautiful to look at! Look at this lovely image of the bridge in shadow and if you look closely you can see punts are sailing past. (If you check out the Secrets to Break Page and look at the information about Friedman’s anagrams you’ll see why I think the punts are important!)
It was reading about the bridge and how it linked the older ‘dark’ side of Queens College with the newer ‘light’ side that got my ideas as a story writer really flowing…and of course as rivers are so vital to this plot it was quite handy that the bridge stretched over the river Cam! You should remember Cambridge. I doubt the trip to the bridge is the Secret Breakers’ last visit to this incredibly important city!
23 Leinster Gardens and Downs Street Station
Okay, now you have to admit it, you thought that the house that wasn’t really a house was something I made up, didn’t you? But it really exists. Honest. Here’s some photos. The facade or dummy front of the house was put up to make the exclusive London street in Bayswater, look ‘normal’ and hide the vent to the underground. The house has blacked out windows and if you look really carefully the door has no letterbox. In the 1930s there was an elaborate hoax. People sold tickets for a very expensive party…and guests arrived in dinner dress to find the house didn’t really exist. So…you’ve been warned!
And the underground station that’s really a newsagents isn’t made up either. See the photograph. Doesn’t look much like a station, does it! And compare the old tube map with the new. Just because trains don’t stop there any more doesn’t mean the station has really disappeared!
Secret Breakers are quick to learn that all sorts of secrets can be hiding right in plain sight. Hopefully, now you know this, you’ll keep looking really carefully at the world around you!
Driving bollards in Cambridge!
Now if you found a house that wasn’t a house a little tricky to imagine you might have struggled to imagine the road bollards I describe in the chase scene in Cambridge. This short video shows you how the pillars really do sink down into the ground to allow authorised vehicles through.
Hopefully now you’ve seen this, you’ll be able to imagine what happens to the car from Level Five which does not have authority to pass! And you’ll also remember to drive very carefully around Cambridge if you ever take a trip there to check out the Mathematical Bridge!