Book Review: King Ottokar’s Sceptre

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Title: King Ottokar’s Sceptre

Author and Illustrator: Hergé (Georges Prosper Remi)

Genre: Comic, adventure

Series: The Adventures of Tintin #8

Setting: Syldavia

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars


The story tells of young Belgian reporter Tintin and his dog Snowy, who travel to the fictional Balkan nation of Syldavia with Professor Hector Alembick, a sigilographer. Tintin begins to suspect that there is a plot to overthrow the monarch, who will be forced to do so if he fails to possess his sceptre on St. Vladimir’s Day. With the due date drawing near, will Tintin and his friends be able to recover the stolen artefact and save the day?

I’ve been a huge Tintin fan since childhood. Something about the impossible adventures of the young Belgian reporter, so removed from the ordinary, never failed to entertain me. It did help that Tintin and Snowy were extremely easy to love and root for. I picked up the first album in my school library, but I never read them all. I recently acquired the entire series and immediately fell to finishing it.

What impressed me so much about this album particularly was the world-building. Hergé circumvents the fact that his knowledge of other cultures is poor by inventing countries of his own where the conflict takes place. There’s a 3-page spread that provides a brief sketch about Syldavia. While the neighbouring country, Borduria, receives little attention, it is clear from the plot that it bears a strong resemblance to Germany. This serves as a perfect set-up for the later albums that reference these fictional lands.

The plot was tightly woven as well. I really loved the layer of mystery added through the theft of the sceptre. The political intrigue was believable and interesting too. The strange behaviour of Professor Alembick as they travel to Slydavia is a nice twist (but if you’ve read a lot of fiction, the explanation is evident). The hints of a bigger conspiracy, constant danger and the lurking evil at every turn was thrilling. I enjoyed the pace of the story, which definitely kept me turning the pages quickly.

Finally, the characters in this album seemed well-rounded compared to the previous ones in the series. It feels as if Hergé really hits his stride as a storyteller and keeps the plot as well as the characters consistent, providing logical explanations and tying up most of the loose ends in the story, which was lacking the preceding ones. As always, Tintin and loyal Snowy are a delight, Thomson and Thompson provide the comic relief and a few new characters are introduced as well. King Muskar XII comes as a pleasant surprise and the introduction of Bianca Castafiore, a recurring character in the series later, elicits a few good laughs as well.

To sum up, I devoured the entire album in one sitting and never found myself breaking off to wonder why something transpired the way it did. It is the first work of Hergé that I thoroughly liked. The use of fiction to reflect the political trends of the time was a masterstroke, in my opinion. This easily makes it to my top three Tintin albums list.

In the view of September Reading Month here at Pages That Rustle, I planned to review books from different genres and the acquisition of the Tintin series was a happy coincidence. Other comics I enjoy flipping through are Asterix and Calvin and Hobbes. Have you read the Tintin series? What did you think of the review? Do you have the habit of reading comics? Let me know your opinions through the comments section below. If you are on Goodreads, hop over to my profile and say hi.

11 thoughts on “Book Review: King Ottokar’s Sceptre

  1. I just introduced my eight year old daughter, Audrey to Tintin, via the DVD box set of every episode of the old tv series, which I remember very fondly from MY childhood, forty years ago. They’re still as brilliant now (if slightly non-pc) as they were then.

    Liked by 1 person

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