Saturday, 22 October 2016
The Adventures of Tintin: King Ottokar's Sceptre by Herge Review
King Ottokar’s Sceptre is one of only two Tintin books I surprisingly never read as a kid (the other being In the Land of the Soviets) and, having read it now, I can say I didn’t miss out on anything back then!
Set in the fictional country of Syldavia (I think it’s based on Albania), if the King doesn’t brandish his sceptre on St Vladimir’s Day, he must step down - and some nefarious neighbouring country is sending agents to steal the sceptre for just that to happen! Tintin stumbles across another witless old geezer who’s inexplicably a professor (he seems to attract this type likes flies!) and gets involved with what he’s doing in Syldavia because there wouldn’t be a book otherwise!
This one feels like Herge on autopilot. The contrived nature of the storytelling was really apparent to me now I'm no longer an uncritical-thinking kid. The plot points are very clunkily assembled and fit awkwardly with one another to get to where Herge wants things to be. I could list all the silly moments but I know this is meant for kids so I won’t overkill with the criticisms. Suffice it to say that it’s a very repetitive and boring read with Tintin being captured, escaping, getting re-caught, escaping again, etc. for most of the story.
I’ve revisited Tintin as an adult and found some of them still hold up (like The Calculus Affair), and it’s nice to see Herge’s beautiful ligne claire art again, but King Ottokar’s Sceptre is definitely not one of the great books in the series.