Wayward Kitsune

The Queen and the Nobody Boy - Barbara Else This review is also posted on Thoughts and Pens Blog.

This book is another random pick of mine from NetGalley. The cover is so vibrant and charming that I immediately fell in love with it, hence, the immediate request. The summary was even more exciting, a rags to riches story? Sign me up for that!
The Queen and the Nobody Boy narrates the story of Queen Sibilla and Hodie, the Palace’s odd job boy and how their lives turned upside down after making choices that seem to lead to unfortunate events. Tired of being unpaid and poorly fed at Queen Sibilla’s palace, Hodie finally decided that life would be easier if he just look for his fortune somewhere else. However, when he was about to flee, the young Queen Sibilla decided to accompany him as she was also frustrated from the pressures the Palace had burdened her with. And together, the two children left the Kingdom of Fontania and set off on a perilous journey towards Um’Binnia, another Kingdom determined to destroy Fontania and claim all the magic that it holds.

I understand that this book is already the second book of the Tales of Fontania and though I’ve heard about The Travelling Restaurant, I haven’t got the opportunity to read it. I don’t think it matters though since TQNB has its own story to tell.

The first chapters of the book were somewhat relaxed and there were a lot of moments that were spent on Hodie contemplating about how sorry his life has become. I admit that it bore me in a way because as a children’s book, it should have started with more force to attract the short-attention span of children. I understand that the first chapters were used to set the stage for the story to unfold but again, I would have been glad if it was shortened a little bit. The story started to pick up speed when the two children journeyed to the kingdom of Um’Binnia. And this is where the fun part for crazy adventures melded with an astonishing steampunk had started to unfurl.

The wind trains sounded like a more-than-wild roller coaster ride. And while we are having the best moment of our lives riding the wind trains, outrageous and lovable characters started to surface. Murgott, who was seemingly a background character in the first chapters, was revealed to be important. And by golly, he might be a pirate and struck me as a rogue but his deepest nature is funny, loyal and brave. And there’s Princessa Lu’nedda, the vain and spoiled brat daughter of Emperor Prowdd’on of Um’Binnia, who was able to prove that she is the worthy Empress of Um’Binnia by being feisty, daring, intelligent and compassionate. What about Prowdd’on? Well, this book wouldn’t have been fun without this stuck up Um’Binnian Emperor. I am prepared to bet my five fingers that Barbara’s inspiration for his character was the Emperor’s new clothes.

While the above characters made a positive impression on me, I am still deciding on what to make of our hero and heroine. There are times that Hodie and Sibilla annoys me with their brattiness and immaturity especially the latter who seemed really flat throughout the whole story except for the few moments wherein she was really candid and simply cute. Hodie, however, is alright and he would have been really great if Barbara had made a significant development on his character as the story progressed.

TQNB’s plot was charming, not too complicated but not plain either, a good choice for young readers. And the way Barbara painted the picture of Um’Binnia is sufficiently creative for the readers to ride the next train to that kingdom. The search for the Ties, being one of the central points of the story, also made a welcoming feeling for the adventurous of hearts. In the midst of all these, there were elements of drama, surprises, and a budding romance (can you believe that? xD) that were thrown into the picture that makes TQNB appealing even to the hesitant children’s book readers.

There are however things that TQNB lacked. One is that the war at the end of the book wasn’t clearly elaborated, like it was just haphazardly inserted into the whole story. I would have loved to witness a good fight with Sibilla and Hodie doing amazing exploits of bravery. And then, there’s the cliffhanger between what happened to Lu’nedda and Murgott. And third is that, Hodie’s future is only implied. I mean come on, lots of pages have been wasted with him pondering on how he was such a Nobody boy that he sort of deserved a way, way better ending than saying “Your Majesty, I will be honored.”

On a general note, TQNB is a splendid tale of two frustrated children who went into an adventure weaved with magic and steampunk and emerged as heroes. An excellent read for everyone especially the young ones who are still searching for themselves under the sun.

Thanks to Netgalley and publisher for the free copy!