Goodreads: Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy
Published: January 28, 2014
Unlikely heroine Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard doesn’t believe in anything that can’t be proven by science. 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.
As Ophelia embarks on an incredible journey to rescue the boy everything that she believes will be tested. Along the way she learns more and more about the boy’s own remarkable journey to reach her and save the world.
A story within a story, this a modern day fairytale is about the power of friendship, courage and love, and never ever giving up.
Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy is a simplistic book–and this is both its one redeeming quality and its downfall. The book delights in the simplicity of the idea that sometimes magic just happens and there’s no explanation needed. But it also draws heavily on middle grade novel tropes and offers readers a quest tale that’s so incomplex it might as well not be a quest at all.
Middle grade readers will be familiar with the premise of the story: a child gets to hang out in a unique museum for a while, and it turns out there’s something strange and magical about it. Personally, I love museum stories. But I have also read a lot of them, and Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy does not offer me much that’s new. Ophelia does not really get to explore the museum or exult in history or odd artifacts. She spends most of the time in rooms that are not actually displays and is only interested in artifacts directly related to her goal. The history nerd in me is bummed at the missed opportunity.
Unfortunately, the quest that takes her away from the wonders of history is not always that interesting either. Her first set of tasks are repetitive; she basically has to do the same thing while facing difficult obstacles. While I can appreciate the experiences would be pretty intense to live through (facing a man-eating creature isn’t boring just because you’ve done it before!), that intensity does not necessarily translate to readers who have already seen the character perform a very similar set of actions. Twice.
The Marvelous Boy’s journey makes up for this a bit. His tale is interwoven with Ophelia’s, and it is here where the real magic happens. Foxlee’s imagination shines brightly in these scenes, and the sparse yet lyrical prose really fits the Boy’s story. I wish I felt the same sense of magic while reading the museum scenes.
Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy is a cute story. I think younger readers would enjoy it, particularly if they have not read a lot of stories in this vein before. For me, it just wasn’t original enough to capture my attention.