Book Review: Karen Foxlee’s Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy

Posted January 8, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews, Middle-Grade readers

I received this book for free from the author as a free story in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Karen Foxlee’s Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy


Karen Foxlee

fantasy that was published by Alfred A. Knopf on January 28, 2014 and has 233 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

This is a fantasy tale for curious children.

I received this story as an ARC from the author.

My Take

An intriguing fairy tale that mixes the wicked queen with the valiant young hero. But with a twist. The wicked queen strongly reminds me of the Snow Queen from Narnia…eek… Yeah, part of that is because she’s a queen of cold as well, but it’s how she stalks the Marvelous Boy and her utter wickedness.

It’s a bit confusing at the start, since it starts in the middle, but persevere. It makes sense. The ending is one of those bittersweet ones, so be prepared to shed a tear or two. And there is hope. I do wish Foxlee had repeated or reinforced the concept of separate planes and the reason why the boy’s name is taken a bit more.

Foxlee does a great job in creating tension, and yes, it’s a good tension level for kids. Enough to worry them but set in the fairytale mode to take it outside their experience. It’s how she progresses with the story that makes it even better. Smooth and easy the tale goes from a medieval period to today and realization slowly slips up on you at the museum.

I love how Foxlee uses words: “delicate morsels of innocence”.

How did Alice break the machine? Wasn’t it Ophelia??

It’s exciting, adventurous, and scary as we tiptoe through exhibits and retrieve lost articles. Avoid the guards…the knitting guards! When they’re not knitting, they sleep. Makes for an interesting mind visual! Foxlee includes other great visuals that bring childhood to mind: the blue velvet coat with its torn pocket, the sneaking about Ophelia does, the mess of the museum and its very odd exhibits, and the very careful “seduction” of Alice—a good example to talk over with your kids about stranger danger.

The grief the kids and their father feel over the mother’s death is there, a bit removed, and there is one passage that makes me cry in which father says there is all the time in the world for ideas. And it’s mother’s reply that does me in. Another passage reassures her father that it’s okay to be sad about their mother.

Huh, I just got it. I was thinking about how obsessed Ophelia is with time, in particular how many days and hours it’s been since their mother died. And the story’s denouement revolves around time as well.

Oh, I do hope Foxlee develops this as a series. It could be so much fun!

The Story

The poor Marvelous Boy is co-opted into doing a task for the protectorate of wizards. His name taken from him, his life lengthened, and all to save the world from a wicked queen who knows who he is.

With help from one special someone.

With luck, the inquisitive, curious Ophelia who can’t resist poking her nose into every corner might be able to help this boy she finds imprisoned within the museum.

The Characters

Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard is a very bright young lady with an inquisitive and active mind. She does belong to the Children’s Science Society of Greater London, after all. Her father, Malcolm Whittard, has just gotten a job replacing the suddenly-missing curator for an exhibit, Battle: The Greatest Exhibition of Swords in the History of the World. He’s one of those absentminded fathers who gets too involved in his work. Useful for Ophelia. Alice is the older sister with a preference for Goth. One that is reinforced by the death three months ago of their mother, Susan Worthington, a writer of fantasy, an appreciation with which she imbued Ophelia.

The Marvelous Boy is meant to save the world.

The King is a kindly, weak, but selfish boy to whom no one has ever said no.
The Snow Queen is sweet and nice as she insists and provokes and requires.

Lucy Coutts is a mean girl in Ophelia’s grade. Max Lowenstein is the cat expert at the Children’s Society.

The Museum
Miss Kaminski is the museum curator and very concerned about Ophelia wandering the museum and getting lost. Mr. Pushkinova, the keeper of the Queen’s keys, guards the Marvelous Boy; Mrs. V is another guard. Kyra Marinova is one of the ghost girls. And her portrait is up with Tess Janson‘s, Katie Patin‘s, Matilda Cole‘s, Paulette Claude‘s, Johanna Payne‘s…

The Protectorate of Wizards
The Great Wizard chose him. Petal makes the biscuits.

Ibrom, Alder, and Abram are three great magical owls who gather sorrow.

The Cover and Title

The cartoony cover is wonderfully promising with its snowy, gloomy setting inside the museum with Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy wondering where to go next while overhead the lurking museum curator watches outside.

The title is who the story is all about: Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy.