Book Review: The Queen and the Nobody Boy A Tale of Fontania by Barbara Else

The Queen and the Nobody Boy; A Tale of Fontania by Barbara Else is a children's fantasy novel for the middle grade set. Hodie is barely surviving as the unpaid odd-job boy at the Grand Palace in the Kingdom of Fontania. When a obnoxious group of foreign dignitaries leave under unusual circumstances Hodie decided it is time for him to head out and make a new life for himself. The young Queen, 12-year-old Sibilla, is fed up too. Sick of gossip about her lack of magical ability, she decides to run away with Hodie, whether he likes it or not.  She decides to go with him, insisting he go north to get his mother's bag back from the Emperor of Um'Binnia. The story is one of adventure, finding magic in unexpected places, and truth in even stranger places. Greed, rebellion, and secrets abound in this wonderful adventure.

It was only in looking for a cover photo that I discovered that The Queen and the Nobody Boy was the second book in a series. I have not read the first book, but do not feel like I missed out on anything in this particular story because of that lack. From what I have seen, the first book seems to detail more of Jasper's story (Sibilla's big brother) rather than the story directly relating to the events in this installment. The Traveling Restaurant: Jasper's Voyage in Three Parts, is the first book in this series. I plan on reading it as soon as possible, simply because I enjoyed this story and would like to explore the world a bit more. The world building and characters were unique, sometimes feeling a little familiar on the surface but rising above the standard fare to be quirky fun.

The Queen and the Nobody Boy has fast paced adventure, crazy inventions with a steam punk feel, and a touch of magic. I really enjoyed the tongue in cheek humor and found the story both exciting and fun to read. Hodie, the practical 'nobody boy' and the good natured but sometimes unprepared little queen Sibilla, balance each other nicely. The Princessa, Emperor, and other secondary characters vary between being a little flat and being so well fleshed out that I want to read much more about them in the future. I particularly want to know more about Murgott, the soldier that writes bad poetry and was once a pirate.

I would recommend The Queen and the Nobody Boy to readers that enjoy fantasy, coming of age stories, quest adventures, and any of the above that also strike a chord of feeling fresh and new. Fantasy and adventure fans will be particularly please with the quick pace and unusual settings.
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