Friday, December 26, 2014

The Kingdom of Wrenly: The Lost Stone by Jordan Quinn, illustrated by Robert McPhillips

Prince Lucas is lonely since his father forbids him to play with any of the peasant children - which means he has no friends. He tries to sneak into school in disguise, but is immediately recognized. Luckily, his mother intervenes on his behalf and he gets permission to play with his old friend, her seamstress' daughter Clara Gills. Together, they set out to solve the mystery of his mother's missing emerald, visiting different islands around Wrenly with various magical creatures from fairies to trolls.

The black and white illustrations include a classic fantasy map, inset pictures of different magical creatures, and various scenes of Lucas and Clara's adventures. At just over 100 pages this seems like the perfect beginning chapter book, especially since fantasies for younger readers are difficult to find.

I...really didn't like it. But it's hard to tell how much of that is my feelings as an adult. It's so hard to find fantasies for younger kids, but when I do it's so disappointing to see them stick to the same old tired stereotypes of class prejudice. When the king is thinking about the problem of Lucas' loneliness it says "he couldn't allow him to be friends with the peasants. Even they would think it was strange." That just....seriously? WHY do we need to perpetuate the emulation of feudal societies to kids? The whole book reads like an episode of Disney's Princess Sofia. Why does he have to be a prince at all? And everyone is white of course. If the kingdom is enlightened enough to allow girls in school, girls wearing pants, and all the different fairy tale creatures to coexist (suitably under the control of humans of course) why can't they have diverse characters? Why do they  need to have such an outdated ruling structure? And, of course, although his mother puts in a good word for him, his father has all the power. The whole plot of him not being allowed to play with the kids was completely unnecessary, although I suppose it could be part of the story in later volumes.

Verdict: I can't decide. My objections to this are from an adult viewpoint and it's not like I don't have plenty of Disney and Disney-esque materials in the library already. The writing is no worse than the average beginning chapter series (but no better either). There aren't a lot of reviews, but that's not unusual for a beginning chapter series and they're generally positive. I've heard from friends and parents online that they like the series and I am sure my patrons would love it. Is it fair to penalize a book for what it could have been and what it isn't, rather than what it is? For the moment, it stays in my backlist as I think about it.

ISBN: 9781442496910; Published 2014 by Little Simon; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

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