Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy by Karen Foxlee (2014)
This is a fantasy novel for younger readers, age 9-12, but it is so beautifully written, that it makes for a satisfying read for a YA audience also, at least it did for me!
I don’t generally like fantasy stories set in the present day, but this one does a great job of weaving an old, fairy tale setting through the backstory of centuries past, while making the contemporary setting seem fairy tale-like as well.
It’s not a full retelling, but is a story centred on a familiar fairy tale character – that of the Snow Queen. In Karen Foxlee’s story the Snow Queen has lived through many incarnations to make it to the modern-day, where her plans are still in motion to take over the world and bring it under her cruel and icy rule.
The task of saving the world from such a fate falls to an unlikely prophesied heroine – eleven year old Ophelia-Jane – a geeky, scientific-minded girl who is swept up into a dangerous quest involving talking ghosts, ferocious wolves, human-eating birds, and worse!
There are emotive subtexts to the story that give it rich depth – themes of grief and suffering, of courage and love – these themes are woven effortlessly throughout the fast-paced adventure. The setting of a mysterious old museum in a snowy city, and the charming character of Ophelia are just wonderful. I really enjoyed this story.