Study Guide

The Book of the Lion

By Michael Cadnum

The Book of the Lion Introduction

Ever thought being a knight seemed pretty cool? Riding horses, saving damsels in distress, swinging cool swords…

Well, not so fast. As Edmund—our leading teenager in The Book of the Lion—discovers, becoming a knight takes a lot of hard work. And it involves a lot of vomiting. Like, so much that you might start to think God is punishing you—you know, because these are medieval times and God is the unquestioned ruler of everyone, including the king.

The world Edmund lives in is strange compared to ours, but author Michael Cadnum's depiction of it is pretty spot-on. This book is historical fiction through and through, filled with real historical figures and gory battles plucked from the past and put on the page for our delight. Cadnum did his homework, so while there might be guts and puke galore, you can trust that you're in a land of super authentic details as you read.

What's that? Bodily fluids aren't your thing? Well, the book was a National Book Award finalist, too. So rest assured that the writing is solid and the plot is, too.

Now grab your comfiest saddle and let's hop in the wayback machine to visit the Middle Ages.

What is The Book of the Lion About and Why Should I Care?

We're going to be honest: When you read this book, you might feel like you have more in common with a character from Harry Potter—and we don't mean a muggle, either. The medieval world Edmund lives in is just so different from ours.

But here's the thing: Have you ever felt like the odds were stacked against you? Like there's just no escaping a bad decision you've made or evading the gaze of power? Whether it was lying to your parents or getting busted breaking a rule at school, we've all felt kind of powerless over our lives. But when you meet Edmund, chances are pretty good you'll think you have it made in the shade, no matter how strict your parents or principal are.

See, Edmund lives in England during the Middle Ages, when the church and the state are pretty much one and the same, and when the position you're born into is pretty much the one you can expect to die in. And Edmund was born poor, so he's lived his entire life in servitude to someone else. Because of his low social position, he also gets punished for the sins of the people he answers to, whether he's guilty of the same crimes or not. So yeah. The odds are definitely not in his favor.

But you know what? Edmund still manages to become a self-possessed young man. We're not saying it's easy, and we're not saying his work is done by the time this book ends (it's part of a trilogy, after all), but we are saying that if Edmund can rise to the challenge and start to take some control over his life, you probably can to. So get reading and get ready to feel inspired.

The Book of the Lion Resources


Meet the Author
Liked The Book of the Lion? Check out the author's website, where you'll find a full bio for Michael Cadnum as well as all his other works, including poetry and super short stories.

Couch Crusader
Fess up, we know that you're a secret sucker for all things medieval. So check out this website, which is loaded with pics, videos, and the full story on the three Crusades.

Tweet Tweet
Cadnum might like to write stories set way back in the day, but he's a totally modern guy. And he has the Twitter account to prove it.

Articles & Interviews

Cadnum Does Robin Hood
Enjoy this book? Then check out this interview with Cadnum in which he discusses taking on Robin Hood, one of the most infamous characters of all time.


King Richard
Here's a picture of what King Richard actually looked like, give or take—this was a few years before cameras were invented.

Because we don't ever meet him in the story, here's a picture of what Saladin looked like.