Monday, 21 March 2011

review: Once Upon A Marigold

by Jean Ferris
Harcourt, 2002
young adult fantasy

Seventeen-year-old Christian is feeling the urge to leave his sheltered life, to see the world. He's been corresponding via p(igeon)-mail with the 4th princess of the kingdom, lonely and overlooked Marigold, so when Edric, his foster troll encourages Chris to venture out on his own, Chris decides to get a job at the castle. But contact between a servant and a princess is just about forbidden, and the self-serving queen uses this opportunity to throw Chris in the dungeons and benefit her own homicidal intentions. It's up to Christian's inventive skills, the less-befuddled-than-he-looks king and some roal triplets to foil the queen's plans and marry Marigold off to someone she truly loves, even if he is just a servant... or is he?

The cover:

The copy-paste feel of the different images on parchment paper definitely exudes a fairytale air. This book is labelled as young adult, however, and the playful, kooky vibe that I'm getting seems to appeal more to a middle-grade audience. It matches the story very well, all in all.

The book:

Firstly -- look out: omniscient point of view. The first hint of this is when we dip from Edric's head to that of a dog's; definitely disorienting at times. This POV does help make it feel more fairytale-like, though, so I'd say it's a job well-done. The characters of Marigold -- princess who doesn't like princessy things -- and King Swithbert -- old king who's been duped by his queen, but stands up for himself -- are almost stock, except that nothing in this novel is stock exactly, not even Edric's wonky metaphors ("...he had buttered his bread and now he had to lie in it"). All of the animals have full-blown personalities, and Marigold's blond triplet sisters turn out to be delightfully un-blond.

There are spontaneous bits of humour that are hilarious, especially that bit about the king breaking the guard's britches and the guard having to hold up his pants. (Or maybe that's just me.) Everything ends "happily ever after", which works for this fairytale but also furthers my impression that this novel should've been sold as middle-grade. The quirky atmosphere and brisk pacing help ensure that Once Upon A Marigold, if predictable at times, is a quick, light read, charming and never boring.

Rating: 4 out of 5