The fictional tale of a young woman who attains her childhood dream of becoming a queen.
Debut novelist Buckley depicts the imaginary country of Molgravia as one whose citizens value resilience and determination. Nona, the only child of Vlok, an entrepreneurial count, and Henrietta, a somewhat self-absorbed but loving mother, internalizes these ideals from a young age. Raised in comfort, she delights in being cast as queen in her school play. When she tells her parents of her desire to someday become a real queen who has the power to help people, they tell her it’s unlikely since they’re not of royal lineage or of the highest economic class. Nona matures into a beautiful, intelligent young woman who attracts two serious suitors, neither of whom entirely captures her heart. Upon attending a royal wedding in her country’s capital, she meets a charming foreigner, Wolfgang, the king of Gavia—a fact unbeknownst to her until later that weekend. They begin an enduring romance and eventually wed. While Nona wins over the hearts of the Gavian people, she inwardly despairs over her futile attempts to become pregnant. As she sinks deeper into depression, another country attacks Gavia, forcing it to go to war. Nona summons her faith and positivity, and in just a few days, the enemies withdraw and peace returns. Soon after, she becomes pregnant and overflows with optimism: “There is no obstacle on your way you can’t overcome, no situation out of which there might be no solution.” Nona may be cheerful, but her frequent saccharine soliloquies border on self-righteousness and paint her as more of a caricature than a realistic character. The narrative as a whole is rife with moralistic aphorisms yet short on dialogue, plot development and suspense. Copy editing glitches also detract from the writing. Nevertheless, Buckley paints an absorbing account of the cultural norms and seasonal rhythms of life in Nona’s village. Molgravia comes alive in what appears to be Europe of yesteryear, although this seemingly old-fashioned tale occasionally invokes more modern sensibilities through its call for gender equality.
A cloying fable better suited for a bedtime story.