July 13th, 2014

Review: Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy
by Karen Foxlee

A retelling of the Snow Queen with a scientifically-minded, asthmatic heroine, Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy stars a young girl who recently lost her mother. Her father buries himself in his work and refuses to speak of his wife; Alice, her sister, sinks into a depression that lessens only when the family arrives in a new city where their father is staging an exhibition of swords for the local museum. The beautiful curator, Miss Kaminski, captivates Alice and as she teaches the teenager about fashion and make-up, her grief is forgotten. Only Ophelia knows the truth, thanks to a boy imprisoned in one of the museum’s forgotten gallery: Miss Kaminski is the wicked Snow Queen, and if Ophelia doesn’t find a way to save them the world will be plummeted into eternal winter.

The museum in which the story takes place is a complete and total hodgepodge. It’s very much a creation of a child’s mind, the fantasy museum where anything can be displayed and anything can happen. Very Night at the Museum. It’s a suitable abode for the Snow Queen, for what other institution is so dedicated to stopping time and freezing the natural processes of decay and decomposition? The devotion to preservation of relics and treasures are a perfect trait for a modern-day Snow Queen.

The biggest problem is that the Marvelous Boy, whom we never learn another name for, isn’t very interesting. Constantly being told “The Marvelous Boy did this” and “The Marvelous Boy did that” builds up certain expectations, and the fact that he never manages to develop a personality and spends most of the time giving Ophelia tasks that set her scrambling all over the museum means that this boy really isn’t marvelous. He tells some stories about his magical adventures, but the mythology is vague and weak, and it’s hard to reconcile this adventurer in the tales with the personality-free mannequin narrating them.

Ophelia is an interesting little heroine. She doesn’t believe in magic at all, finding comfort in dinosaur skeletons and the scientific method. With her constant puffing on her asthma inhaler, she doesn’t sound like a typical hero, but as she scampers through the labyrinthine museum you root for her to succeed.

Yet every time the story tries to shift focus back to the Marvelous Boy, I grew bored. His narrations truly weaken the story, slowing it to a crawl and meandering around predictable fantasy tropes. I really could have done without him.

2 out of 5 stars

To read more about Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.

Peeking into the archives...today in:
2013: Stardust by Neil Gaiman
2012: The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini
2011: Fashionista Piranha will be on hiatus for a while
2010: Dolis by Maki Kusumoto
2009: The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
2008: A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin