THE SILVER CROWN by Robert C O'Brien


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A successful fantasy is inherently self-explanatory; further, it suspends disbelief without straining credulity. That Mr. Arthur's nightmare of thought control requires eight pages of explanation at the end is symptomatic of a fundamental failure--but no structure, however well conceived, can support an intricate machine made in the Middle Ages by the adherents of an obscure cult as the cause of race riots and juvenile gang fights; neither can it send the leading sorcerer, de-witched, off to the psychiatrist.... On her tenth birthday Ellen, who fancies herself a queen, finds a silver crown beside her pillow; loses her house and family in a fire; loses her policeman friend in a gunfight after he's muttered ""another green hood."" (You are now on p. 22.) The driver who's offered her a ride (to Aunt Sarah in Kentucky) turns out to have a green hood hidden in his car whereupon she runs away and he chases her scramming about ""the King."" She meets a precocious seven-year-old. Otto, who takes her home to his mother (who isn't his mother but that's another story): after hearing Ellen's tale, Mrs. Fitzpatrick senses further danger and sends Ellen and Otto on with a warning to safeguard the crown. The next ninety pages (it's a long book) chronicle their journey, stalked by a dark Stranger and assisted by a solitary sculptor (Mr. Carver), until Otto disappears inside the Black Castle and Ellen follows. This is the domain of the Hieronymous Machine, spreading evil by telepathy, and only Ellen's crown can counteract it.... The essential why Ellen is justified by developments after the fact, much of what happens to her seems, even in retrospect, unnecessarily outlandish, and the connection with actuality is crude.

Pub Date: March 20th, 1968
ISBN: 0689841116
Publisher: Atheneum