Monday, January 13, 2014

ARC Review: Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy - Karen Foxlee

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee
Genre: Middle Grade, whimsy
Published on January 28, 2014
Published by Knopf Books
Pages: 240
Read From: 1.3.14 - 1.4.14

Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard doesn't believe in anything that can't be proven by science. She and her sister, Alice, are still grieving for their mother when their father takes a job in a strange museum in a city where it never stops snowing. On her very first day exploring the museum, Ophelia discovers a boy locked away in a forgotten room. He is a prisoner of Her Majesty, the Snow Queen. And he has been waiting a long time for Ophelia's help.
As Ophelia embarks on an incredible journey to rescue the boy, everything 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.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? Yes; it's very whimsical and intriguing - all very fitting for this particular story. And I don't even mind the character impersonators.

Characters: Ophelia is constantly doubting her own strength and courage, which got a teensy bit old after a while. But I also couldn't blame her for doubting herself. A small, bespectacled girl with asthma, she doesn't exactly fit the bill for a classic heroine. However, she has determination, curiosity, and a great deal more courage than she ever knew. I couldn't dislike her. The Marvelous Boy is a very curious figure in the story - one we don't get to know horribly well, but what little we do learn of his past totally endeared him to me for reasons I can't quite pin down. He was just cool. Meanwhile, the villainness was actually rather threatening, though perhaps not as much so as she could have been. The book would have had to be longer for that. Now, one character I did not like was Ophelia's sister Alice. Rather spoilt and easily tricked by the Snow Queen, I wouldn't have been too sad to see her get what she deserved for being so bloody gullible.

The Romance: There isn't any!

Plot: Ophelia doesn't believe in anything that can't be proven by science. While her deceased mother believed in the impossible and the whimsical, Ophelia is the exact opposite - partly because her mother was such a steadfast believer in the imaginary. But when Ophelia's father takes a job in a strange city where it never stops snowing, her firm grip on what is possible and impossible is tested. While exploring the museum her father in working at, she discovers a locked door where a strange boy lives. This Marvelous Boy tells Ophelia a miraculous tale of how he is the prisoner of the Snow Queen - an evil sorceress determined to take over the world - and how it is his life's quest to deliver a magical sword to the One Other to save the world. But the Marvelous Boy's immortality is running out, and it's up to Ophelia to find the key that will free the Marvelous Boy - and the magical sword before it is too late. This is a bizarre little story, but also very enjoyable and whimsical. I loved the surreal ambiance and how the Author never tells us where exactly this "winter city" is - or even what it's called. In a story like this, such trivial facts don't matter and would, in fact, take away from the magical feel of the whole thing. Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy is a very short read, but even so the Author does quite a bit of world building, as the Marvelous Boy tells Ophelia his story and Ophelia goes on a quest of her own. The ghost girls and the misery birds were genuinely frightening, as was the Snow Queen's special machine, the giant wolves, and the mannequins that don't exactly stay in one place.

Believability: Not applicable.

Writing Style: Third person, past tense. When the Marvelous Boy tells his story to Ophelia, these parts switch over to a first-person narration, and at first the change felt a little abrupt, but I got used to fairly quickly. Amid the alarming misery birds and suffering ghosts of the Queen's past victims, the Author maintains a sort of lighthearted air to her writing that actually reminded me a lot of Kate DiCamillo's style.

Content: None.

Conclusion: The climax was exciting, but was also a tiny bit too fast. It was also tidy, but in a story like this, I expect nothing else. Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy is one of those short Middle Grade reads that is perfect for a relaxing winter weekend - something to get a boost into the Christmas reading spirit and remind adults what it feels like to be a kid again.

Recommended Audience: Girl-and-boy read, seven and up, great for fans of Kate DiCamillo, The Twistrose Key, and The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

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