Review: Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee
Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee
Published January 28th 2014 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Special thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for the e-arc.
A modern-day fairy tale set in a mysterious museum that is perfect for readers of Roald Dahl and Blue Balliett.
Unlikely heroine 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 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.
A story within a story, this a modern day fairytale is about the power of friendship, courage and love, and never ever giving up.
I read this book three months ago, and despite being in the middle of my college exam session, I couldn't quite put it down. So sitting now at my desk, writing this review, I wonder why I put it off until now, when the memory of this really pleasant read is starting to fade away.
Now let's get back to "Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy". This book started off (and continued right until the end of it) with this incredible, surreal atmosphere children's fantasy books usually have. Or at least, the good ones. It reminded me of past reading experiences like Roald Dahl's "Mathilda" or Lemony Snicket's "Series of Unfortunate Events", both deservedly famous in the children's book genre, which is saying quite a lot, isn't it?
Ophelia, her sister Alice and their father move into a strange town where it always snows. Being a sword expert, the latter's help is needed at the town's museum, where all the main narrative action takes place. Ophelia is fascinated with science and doesn't believe in the preternatural, and like most girls her age, is very curious. So she discovers right on her first day in the museum that a strange boy is being kept prisoner in a long forgotten room.
The book explores Ophelia's adventures in the museum, trying to free the boy, as well as the boy's fantastical quest in the past that led him to become captive. I found myself amused and sometimes a little bit irritated by the boy's attitude towards his duty. He keeps forgetting the important stuff and ends up doing what he was told not to under any circumstances. I couldn't believe someone could be so irresponsible. Olivia herself had trouble with accepting his story as real. But because of the fantasy elements in it.
The town's story also reminded me of a very well-known fairytale, Andersen's "The Snow Queen", a story I had cherished as a child.
But this book doesn't stop at telling us two fantastical adventures. No. It's more than that. It's a story about coming to terms with loss, grief, and accepting not everything in life can be explained. Furthermore, Ophelia made for quite an intriguing character, with her lack of belief in magic (despite her late mother's career in writing fantasy books) contrasting with her determination to go on the crazy adventure of saving the boy, a quest in which she deals with the preternatural numerous times until she can accept its existence. She is a strong character and a good role model for children, never giving up even though she has "bad asthma" and has to stop every once in a while to use her puffer.
All in all, "Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy" is a 3 in 1 adventure: Ophelia's, the boy's and yours while reading this book. Definitely recommended.