Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy

Karen Foxlee
For ages 8 to 12
Random House, 2014   ISBN: 978-0385753548

Several months ago Ophelia’s mother died and her husband and daughters have been struggling with their grief ever since. Ophelia’s father decides that what they all need is a change of scene, so he takes a job setting up a sword exhibit in a museum in a northern foreign city. While he is getting the swords ready for the exhibit, Ophelia and Alice, Ophelia’s older sister, can spend their time exploring and ice skating. The exhibit will open on Christmas Eve and then the family can spend Christmas together, away from the house in London that feels so empty.

   When they get to the city Alice retreats into her herself, listening to gloomy music on her headphones, and Ophelia is left to her own devices. While her father catalogues polishes and prepares the swords for the coming exhibit, Ophelia goes off to explore the museum. She sees rooms full of telephones, mirrors, and stuffed elephants and then she comes to a room with a small door. The door has a golden keyhole, and being a curious girl Ophelia looks through the keyhole, which is how she meets the boy.

   The boy, whose name was taken from him by a protectorate of wizards, tells Ophelia that he has been locked in by the Snow Queen and he needs Ophelia’s help to save the world. When Ophelia, who does not believe in magic, starts asking questions, the boy tells her his story.

   When the protectorate of wizards realized that the Snow Queen was on her way to take over their land they chose a boy who would be sent to “the other realm.” His job was to deliver a special sword to the One Other who would defeat the Snow Queen. Not long after the boy began his schooling with the wizards the land began to get colder and refugees from the north began to arrive, driven south by the Snow Queen and her army. The boy was given his last instructions and sent on his way. He ran and ran but did not get far before one of the Queen’s magical owls found him. The boy shot the owl using his bow and arrow and before it died the owl gave the boy a charm. The charm was supposed to keep the boy safe from the Queen for three days.

   The boy kept on moving until he came to a kingdom where he was taken in by the boy king. The boy stayed with the king, and as the years passed he realized that the owl’s charm had somehow gone wrong. Instead of protecting him for three days it was going to protect him for three hundred and three years. During that time the boy did not age at all. He did not change in any way.

   The Snow Queen eventually arrived in the kingdom and she married the king who had taken in the boy. Though the queen wanted to get rid of the boy she could not do anything to him because of the charm, so she locked him up in room 333 in the museum and waited.

   The boy has been the Queen’s prisoner for many years and now, on Christmas Eve the boy will run out of time. The three hundred and three years are almost up, and he needs Ophelia to help him. He needs her to find the key to the room in which he is being kept, and he needs her to find the sword which he still wants to deliver to the One Other.

   Ophelia is not at all interested in helping the boy. How can she, an eleven-year-old who wears glasses, has knock knees, and has asthma, possibly help this boy? She does even fully believe his story. In spite of herself Ophelia decides to do what the boy asks and thus begins an adventure that will test her in many ways.

   Readers are going to be enthralled by this beautifully written fairy tale. In it we meet two very different children who somehow have to work together to defeat a great evil. The story is not your typical fairy tale, and readers may find that they have to read it several times before they are satisfied that they have captured all that the tale has to offer.