Early Book Review: Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee is a middle grade novel which is currently schedule for release on January 28 2014. This is a modern take of the classic Snow Queen story. Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard is smart, and believes in science and the things she can study. 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. Ophelia accepts that she must rescue the boy, and as she searches for keys and battles things she does not believe in, everything that she believes will be tested. Slowly the boy shares his own story with Ophelia, and the stories come together in a fairy tale about courage, friendship, love, and perseverance.

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy is a great modern take on The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson. I loved that the setting was a museum, and one that I might like to wander around in myself. The nature of a museum with hidden treasures and forgotten storerooms and objects really added to the story. Ophelia and her sister have the complicated relationship most siblings have, which teeters between devotion and annoyance at a speed even they cannot keep up with. The loss of their mother makes this balance even harder to maintain and makes Ophelia lonely enough to make the story possible. This, and the father's way of throwing himself into work to avoid his grief, are all so realistic that the moments of fantasy- like the Marvelous Boy's existence, the Snow Queen, the misery birds, and the rest seem that much more likely to exist. Although I will admit that the museum guards and the furious knitting, among other oddities, scared me much more than some of the creatures that were technically more frightening. I really loved Ophelia's journey, both through the museum and through coming to terms with herself, her family, and her grief.

I would highly recommend Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy to middle grade readers and older. The setting and story are entertaining and while fantastical also something readers can see a bit of themselves in. It is a story for fairy tale lovers, coming of age tales, adventure fiction, magical realism, and just plain old good stories.

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