Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Puzzle King by Nina Cordelia Craft, illustrated by Hillie Dijk

There are some good bones to this story, but it needs some work. The basic story is a sweet fairy tale. A king, obsessed with puzzles, sets his sorcerer the task of finding a bride for him. The sorcerer discovers a magical puzzle and once the king and his subjects have put it together, it frees the princess from a spell and the king has his bride.

There are only a few illustrations; the cover has a kind of watercolor effect and there are small black and white illustrations at the beginning of each chapter.

The story is written in a high fantasy style, which means that some of the vocabulary is going to be too difficult for beginning readers. The descriptions are a bit long-winded and elaborate and many feel cliched. The sections about the sorcerer don't quite fit in with the rest of the plot and there are several loose ends; why is the sorcerer sad? How does the kingdom run if everyone sits around putting together puzzles all day?

But, as I said, there are possibilities in this story! The basic plot of a king finding his princess by putting a puzzle together is intriguing and the side plots of the sorcerer's books are fun and light-hearted. Although the language is a bit convoluted and lengthy, the author has some good turns of description and and plenty of imaginative sparks. I can see the puzzle king plot making an excellent picture book, once the story has been pared down and with a good illustrator. The sorcerer and his books might be a fun middle grade fantasy with some additions to the plot and more character development.

Verdict: I wouldn't recommend this book as is, but I suggest keeping an eye on the author; she has possibilities!

ISBN: 978-1608601493; Published June 2009 by Eloquent Books; Review copy provided by author for Cybils

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