Loftus’ young adult novel creates a fantasy world of good kings, evil witches and happily-ever-afters.
Ruby Rocksparkle and her family, all named after gemstones, are poor farmers in the happy kingdom of Felicitania. After a carriage accident brings the injured king to their doorstep, the family experiences a positive change in fortune. Meanwhile, the vain Queen Morgana wants to ensure her status as the loveliest woman in the kingdom by enlisting the aid of an evil witch to eliminate the competition. Ruby is captured, along with several of her sisters, but manages to escape and, dressed as a boy, accompanies the prince on his journey to a neighboring kingdom. They have many adventures along the way, resulting in the triumph of justice, true love and a royal wedding. Using tried-and-true plot points and stock characters, Loftus creates a sweet, wholesome story of benevolent royalty and honest peasants, including a glossary to help young readers. It’s not entirely clear where the story supposedly takes place—characters reference China and Beethoven, implying that they are in our reality, but the world also has many fantastical elements that are more at home in a traditional fairy tale. There are a few other problematic elements as well, such as when Ruby is captured by Arab bandits who, in turn, sell her to a sultan as part of his harem. While this theme might have been appropriate in less culturally sensitive times, nowadays the incident suggests an adult situation that may be best left out of a children’s tale. And while the writing style is clear and readable, at times the prose relies too heavily on contemporary slang, confusing the reader as to both the period and the setting of the work.
While the Disney-esque tale feels saccharine at times, the fast-paced, eventful plot will appeal to younger readers who are able to suspend their disbelief and enter a nicer world than our own.