Friday, 24 January 2014
Review: Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy by Karen Foxlee
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Released: January 28th, 2014
A luminous retelling of the Snow Queen, this is the story of unlikely heroine Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard who doesn't believe in anything that can't be proven by science. She and her sister Alice are still grieving for their dead mother when their father takes a job in a strange museum in a city where it always snows. On her very first day in the museum Ophelia discovers a boy locked away in a long forgotten room. He is a prisoner of Her Majesty the Snow Queen. And he has been waiting for Ophelia's help. As Ophelia embarks on an incredible journey to rescue the boy everything that she believes will be tested. Along the way she learns more and more about the boy's own remarkable journey to reach her and save the world.
Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy is one of the best middle grade books I've read for a long time. It's a modern day fairytale, a retelling of the Snow Queen, and is set in a museum in an unidentified country where there's lots of snow and ice cold weather. It reminded me of The Chronicles of Narnia, in part because of the snow-covered locations but mainly because of the magic that floated off the pages.
Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard is a fantastic character to carry this story. She's brave, courageous and intelligent for her young years and, like her father and sister, is still racked with grief over the death of her mother. She continually counts how long it's been since she died, and has also noticed a change in the rest of her family: her dad is obsessed with work (he's a sword expert, moving the whole family to the museum for an exhibition) and her sister is trying to grow up before she's ready. Ophelia doesn't believe anything that can't be proved by science or logic, until one day when she meets a boy locked in a room and embarks on an adventure that will change her life.
The Marvellous Boy has been imprisoned by the Snow Queen for years and years, being under-fed and forgotten about. He doesn't know his name because the wizards took it off him three hundred and three years ago, but it's safe and one day he'll get it back. Ophelia is the only person who can help him, the only person who has found him and takes him seriously and, after much coercion, she sets off to retrieve some very important keys. The Marvellous Boy is also a brilliant character to meet and read about, but it's nice to see the girls take centre stage for a while. He and Ophelia make a great team, and his story made me choke up at the end. Is just so lovely!
This book took me by surprise. I had no idea I'd love it so much, but I did. So much in fact that I've ordered a finished copy! It's not just a fairytale, though Karen Foxlee does that element very well, it's also a heartwarming story about love, loss, grief and the importance of family. It's about carrying on and doing what you must, helping those in need and realising that just because someone's gone doesn't mean they'll ever leave you. Ophelia learns this through the help of the Marvellous Boy; through her sadness and broken heart. I don't have one single bad thing to say about Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy - it's perfect for readers aged 8-12 and for me it's an instant classic. I can't wait to read it again and relive the magic!
* This book will be published in the UK by Hot Key Books in February, 2014.