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USA Paperback in English probably from the 1980s.

Story is set on a planet that has been out of touch with the rest of the civilization for a few hundred years or more. I don't believe they have flight capability.

The major city/state/region is ruled by a king who enters and wins a long marathon type journey that might take as much as a week to complete.

I believe it might be held every generation (or more often? Maybe every 10 years? Maybe whenever there is someone who wants to challenge the king?) If I recall right, every generation it is usually the kings children who complete.

At the time of this story, contact with envoys from space have arrived. However the current king, will not make deals they are happy with so they try to back one of the King's children in the journey. (Giving him equipment/radio to help him win) I think there are at least 2 maybe 3 of the King's children competing, and maybe an outsider who is not one of the king's children also competing.

This is a deadly journey, most people don't reach the end and die. So its not something many are interested in entering.

The King's has a jester/fool who is always with him, cracking wise, making fun of the king and others. (I seem to recall that he is either crippled (cant use his legs) or lost his legs, or is deformed, (short legs and long arms)

In reality the jester/fool, is the King's #1 advisor/bodyguard/friend. He also entered and finished the journey the first time the King won but came in second. (If he is crippled or lost his legs, this is when it happened.) Both of them having completed the same journey was a enormous bonding experience which is what makes them trust each other to become King and trusted advisor/bodyguard.

I believe the King (and the jester?) have completed the journey more than once.

EDIT: On the journey they might also make contact with the natives of the planet who I vaguely recall might be a bit mystic. (see into your soul type thing)

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  • The fool makes me want to say one of Robin Hobbs Farseer books but I can't think of anything like this in any I've read.
    – mwarren
    Mar 15, 2021 at 15:49
  • Nope, was not part of a series. Hmm part of the cover might have had a mountain peak on it. (symbolizing the journey)
    – NJohnny
    Mar 15, 2021 at 16:12

1 Answer 1

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Trekmaster by James B. Johnson

is the book that immediately came to my mind when I read your description. Sadly I found the book only today in an almost forgotten moving box, so sorry for the late answer.

USA Paperback in English probably from the 1980s.

Trekmaster came out 1987.

Story is set on a planet that has been out of touch with the rest of the civilization for a few hundred years or more. I don't believe they have flight capability.

From the back cover: "The world of Bear Ridge, once colonized by Olde Earthe but later abandoned ... Civilization had regressed, sacrificing technology and reverting to the level of warring city states." As you recall correctly, only outsiders have (space-)flight capability.

The major city/state/region is ruled by a king who enters and wins a long marathon type journey that might take as much as a week to complete.

At the time the story begins, Thomas Jefferson Shepherd is king of the whole planet Bear Ridge. Becoming Trekmaster by crossing a dangerous mountain range is not a prerequisite for being king, but it carries prestige and allows to challenge the current king.

At the time of this story, contact with envoys from space have arrived. However the current king, will not make deals they are happy with so they try to back one of the King's children in the journey. (Giving him equipment/radio to help him win)

There is an envoy from the Federation of Planets, but her assignment is to only observe and not to interfere with the local society. When the kings son decides to perform the Trek, she spontaneously offers him a modern weapon despite of the restrictions of her job, and not because of political scheming but out of sympathy and dislike of the Trek, which she perceives as deadly and outdated custom.

I think there are at least 2 maybe 3 of the King's children competing, and maybe an outsider who is not one of the king's children also competing.

The kings sole legitimate son as well as many illegitimate children start the latest Trek. I do not recall an obvious outsider during this Trek, but there was at least one outsider during the previous Trek: Summer Camp, the kings jester (see below for a more details).

This is a deadly journey, most people don't reach the end and die. So its not something many are interested in entering.

Exactly.

The King's has a jester/fool who is always with him, ... (I seem to recall that he is either crippled ...) In reality the jester/fool, is the King's #1 advisor/bodyguard/friend. He also entered and finished the journey the first time the King won but came in second. (If he is crippled or lost his legs, this is when it happened.)

This nicely describes the relation between TJ Shepherd and Summer Camp, his jester and bodyguard, but with some differences: Summer Camp began his journey but never finished it, as he saved the life of TJ Shepherd, who at that time was on his return from the Trek. At that ocassion, he broke a leg, which prevented him from continuing but also indebted the future king further to him. Yet this mishap did not cripple Summer Camp for life.

I believe the King (and the jester?) have completed the journey more than once.

Not that I am aware of.

On the journey they might also make contact with the natives of the planet who I vaguely recall might be a bit mystic. (see into your soul type thing)

Yes, most Trekmasters meet the Webbines, the natives of Bear Ridge, during their journey. The Webbines indeed have telepathic and other supernatural abilities. They don't have much use for technology, instead they train and perfect their psychic and biological abilities.

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