MG Book Review: Ophelia & the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee

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Karen Foxlee has written a stunning modern-day fairy tale inspired by the Hans Christian Andersen classic: The Snow Queen. When eleven-year-old Ophelia discovers a boy locked in a forgotten room of a museum, she stumbles upon long forgotten secrets and an evil she can defeat only if she believes in magic.

So what’s with the names in the book’s title? Absolutely, everything. Foxlee has created characters that are both timeless and new at the same time.

Eleven-year-old Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard has a name worthy of a heroine or at least a Princess, but she’s neither. She’s the exact opposite. Small and asthmatic she’s having a hard time dealing with the death of her mother. She’s an unlikely heroine, much like that other famous Ophelia, the one from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. But unlike that Ophelia who crumbles under pressure, this Ophelia is driven by curiosity and saves the world.

Her sister Alice has a name that should make her a heroine too. She should be curious, energetic and brave like Alice from Alice in Wonderland, but she’s not. She’s the opposite. Grieving has made her cold, obsessed with being beautiful, and a prime target of the Snow Queen. But even she will do her part to help save the world.

And the boy, the one who has been locked in the room for over three hundred years has no name. He is known only as the Marvelous Boy. Chosen by wizards to bring the sword to kill the Snow Queen, he ends up under a spell and her prisoner. He doesn’t save the world the way he expects. He gets Ophelia to. She is so determined to find out his name, she searches the museum in order to free him, and ends up believing in magic.

And finally, there is the Snow Queen, a villain so dangerous you would expect her to have a unique name, and yet she doesn’t. But perhaps that’s why she can be defeated. In modern times she is known as Miss Kaminski the beautiful museum curator. In olden times she was known simply as the Queen. Foxlee very eloquently paints her character in the book:

“In the end the Queen was nothing like she was in the stories…There were no claws, No sharp teeth. She was young. Her hair dripped over her shoulders. She opened her blue eyes wide and smiled sweetly at the King.”

Foxlee’s writing is so poetic, her imagery so vivid, and her story so full of emotion, it will stick with you long after you have finished reading. It is the Snow Queen re-imagined in the finest way. It is a must read.


3 Comments

  1. alison

    I read this book in one night. I’m trying to work on my first Middle Grade fiction book and it was truly inspirational. My son is loving it too! Thanks for the review.

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