Thursday, January 23, 2014

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy - Karen Foxlee

Title: Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy
Author: Karen Foxlee
Publisher: Random House, January 28 2014 (Review copy is an ARC from the publisher)
Length: 227 pages
Genre: Children's Fantasy
Started: January 20, 2014
Finished: January 23, 2014

From the back of the book:

The North Wind doth blow and we shall have snow.

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 adventure 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.

A story within a story, this modern-day fairy tale is about the power of friendship, courage, and love-and the importance of never giving up.

I signed up for an ARC of this as soon as I saw the pre-release hype email in my inbox. I'm always up for a good fairy tale retelling, especially a less common one like The Snow Queen.

This version is more unique than the typical retellings of The Snow Queen. Instead of the usual "boy is seduced by Snow Queen, his heart turns to ice and becomes her crony; his childhood female friend goes on journey to find and redeem him" thing, this story follows 11-year-old Ophelia and her discovery of the Marvelous Boy, an eternal child more than 300 years old who was chosen by wizards to slay the Snow Queen. But the boy is locked in the museum and guarded, so it is up to Ophelia to find the keys to unlock both the door to the boy's prison, and also the sword that can slay the Snow Queen. The figure of the boy that falls under the Snow Queen's spell in this version is actually Ophelia's older sister, Alice.

Ophelia's journey includes snow leopards, ghost girls that had their innocence sucked clean by the Snow Queen, Misery Birds, and wolves...all without leaving the museum building, which were really incredible scenes to read. The writing is sophisticated yet simple, it reads like an old-fashioned fairy tale in terms of the language.

Ophelia is your typical unhero turned hero, she believes more in science than magic, she's got some serious self-esteem issues which are compounded in the wake of her mother's death, and she's an asthmatic with glasses and braids. She was a little hard to cheer on in the beginning since she needed soooo much coaxing, but Ophelia grew on me.

In terms of Snow Queen retellings, my favourite is still Breadcrumbs, but Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy gets some serious credit from me purely because it deviates from the typical story and has some spectacular writing.

Thoughts on the cover:
I love the style and colour scheme, and how the Marvelous Boy and Ophelia are illustrated exactly like they're written.

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