Clark (The Royal Fables, 2016, etc.) offers a middle-grade fairy tale about two people hindered by a sorcerer’s spells.
To celebrate Princess Brooke’s 12th birthday, the king and queen give her a bedroom containing loads of flowers and an apple tree sapling. It also has a ceiling with an open skylight. However, when Brooke steps beneath it, she briefly disappears, then reappears beside her parents. It’s revealed that she’s not allowed to go outside because of a spell that a sorcerer, Beauregard, created to punish the queen. The next morning, Brooke wakes to find a creature perched in her small tree—“a snow-white Parakeet with golden feathers on its head.” She’s further surprised to learn that the bird speaks; his name, he says, is Prince Benjamin Mordecai Higginbotham. He’s also under a spell, and Brooke is the first person to understand him. They become fast friends, but then the princess comes down with a horrible fever. She dreams of being a bird herself, battling her way through the flora and fauna of an evil forest. Later, the princess and parakeet decide to do something about the spells holding them back—and to face the sorcerer who meddled in their lives. In this elegant fantasy, Clark presents characters who cope gracefully with affliction and enjoy life on their own terms. Along the way, the story discusses various forms of meditation, including the king’s, which involves “taking the time to figure out how things went together, looking at things from every angle.” It also offers intriguing details, such as the idea that parakeets “see the world slightly more enhanced than humans, more colorfully.” In the book’s first half, Clark delivers an enjoyably wandering narrative, following on Benjamin’s notion about stories: “when a character veers away from the plot....It’s as if I’ve been given a glimpse of them off the page, sharing something private.” Later, the narrative gallops down a more traditional fantasy path, even confronting the horrors of war. An afterword tells of the late Brooke Hester, the young girl who provided the inspiration for the tale, which gives the happy ending a bittersweet flavor.
An elegiac and celebratory fantasy.