The princess is kidnapped, a kingdom imperiled, and the fate of West Stanhope’s throne rests on a trickster goblin’s riddles and a boy without a name.
In his debut novel, Chilton crafts a sharp and engaging fantasy world that, in the vein of William Steig’s Shrek! (1990), satirizes conventional fairy-tale themes while employing them to pen an original story. Set in a medieval era of knights and ladies, the story presents the standard fantasy tropes: the young hero of humble origins, the feisty princess and clever peasant girl (both are named Alice), dragons, goblins, ogres, hapless royalty, and a dastardly villain angling for the throne. A deft weaving of feudal and contemporary sensibilities (nobles own slaves, but the Earth’s circuit of the sun is common knowledge) distinguishes these characters from the herd. Part of the joy of this novel lies in watching the different character arcs interlock, like pieces to a jigsaw puzzle. While the boy is the "official" hero sent on the quest, Princess Alice and Plain Alice (who’s not so plain) are neither helpless maidens awaiting rescue, nor insignificant supporting characters. In fact, their shrewd observations drive the novel’s central premise that “not knowing means exploring and discovering.”
An emphasis on questioning fate, societal rules, and traditions as well as the importance of wit and logic rather than brawn renders this lighthearted adventure fresh. (Fantasy. 10-13)