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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Review: 'Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy'

By Karen Foxlee
Middle grade fantasy
January 2014
Knopf Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 978-0385753548

Ophelia is an intrepid tween who prefers science to magic, fact to fantasy and, right now, the past to the present. The last is because her mother died a few months ago of cancer.

Her father has buried himself in his work as a sword expert, taking Ophelia and her older sister, Alice, away from their London home to a European city filled with snow. They're to spend their time ice skating while their father puts together an exhibition of the greatest swords ever gathered together.

The girls are bored as well as in mourning. Ophelia explores the vast corriors and twisty exhibit halls of the museum where the exhibition will be held. The nooks and crannies of the museum are far preferable to the company of the museum curator, a vaguely menacing young woman named Miss Kaminski. She may be beautiful, and her father and Alice may think she's spiffy, but Ophelia wants nothing to do with her.

Ophelia soon has her hands full with a quest. In one of the locked museum rooms, she discovers, is a boy. He has been there for a long, long time. Ages ago, the king who he was met when he was sent across the water to defeat the Snow Queen had him locked up at the behest of his new wife. As Ophelia battles fantastical things she knows cannot exist, but which do, the boy fills her in on his story.

As Karen Foxlee's new novel, Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy, picks up speed in an action-filled adventure, her heroine finds she has also embarked on a personal journey that involves honoring the spirit of her mother, a fantasy writer who loved to spin tales about frightening things. Foxlee knows just when to switch scenes to what Ophelia's father and sister are up to, when to tell the reader more about the marvelous boy and when to move Ophelia's quest forward.

One of the great aspects to this story is that it is not sad. It is filled with life and making time count. Foxlee knows how to spin wisdom into her tale with light and laughter. She also has a masterful touch at description.

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy is a fabulous fantasy for middle grade readers who love fairy tales, adventure and stories of courage and love.

©2014 All Rights Reserved CompuServe Book Reviews and reprinted with permission

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