Marabel and the Book of Fate
by Tracy Barrett
Published February 2018
Goodreads: See here
Middle Grade Fantasy/Mythology
Plot at a Glance:
Free-spirited Marabel must defy expectations to rescue her brother–and their kingdom.
In Magikos, life is dictated by the Book of Fate’s ancient predictions, including the birth of a royal Chosen One who will save the realm. Princess Marabel has grown up in the shadow of her twin brother, Marco, who everyone assumes is the true Chosen One. While Marco is adored and given every opportunity, Marabel is overlooked and has to practice her sword fighting in secret.
But on the night of their thirteenth birthday, Marco is kidnapped by an evil queen, and Marabel runs to his rescue. Outside the castle walls for the first time, accompanied by her best friend and a very smug unicorn, Marabel embarks on a daring mission that brings her face-to-face with fairies, trolls, giants–and the possibility that all is not as it seems in Magikos.
I am a total kid at heart. I basically cannot resist a Middle Grade story with an interesting sounding fantasy premise and a beautiful cover. When I came across this browsing Netgalley, I knew I had to request it and was pleasantly surprised to find myself approved.
Marabel and the Book of Fate is a wonderful contemporary fantasy fairy tale for kids eager to break into worlds other than their own. Marabel, Princess of a land called Magikos, has grown up in her twin brother Marco’s shadow as he is the Chosen One by birth – the one that their Book of Fate heralds as the future ruler of prophecy. Her life is turned upside down though, when Marco is kidnapped on the eve of their 13th birthday.
Unable to leave Marco to an uncertain fate with no intervention, Marabel takes it upon herself to rescue him, and sets off on an epic journey with her best friend Ellie, and her father’s Unicorn, Floriano.
I’ve got to say that I truly enjoy that little twist in the “Chosen One” narrative that Tracy Barrett employs at least at the start of the story. It’s an interesting position to be placed in as a reader: alongside a character who stands at the side of the Chosen One. Still, this is a hero’s journey at its heart and Marabel quickly establishes herself as a character you want to root for. She’s loyal to her brother, family and friends, and very motivated to reach her goals.
The setting is quite a bit of fun too! It reminded me quite a bit of Shrek in the ways that Tracy Barrett plays off of familiar tropes about fantasy creatures and twists them into new, yet still recognizable examples of them. One thing that is great about this story is the way that Barrett incorporates a lot of very modern pop culture references (Minecraft for example, becomes Impcraft) that I’m certain children being raised today will get a real kick out of it.
My main qualm with this book lies in the fact that it felt a little underwritten for Middle Grade. 13 years olds are teenagers. Many teens by that age have read Harry Potter or watched Doctor Who, and a bunch of them have probably already seen their fair share of PG and PG13 movies. My point is, they’ve already been exposed to scary stuff.
The story seemed to shy away from any potentially scary moment in a way that I think will probably rub young teens wrong, and isn’t exactly true to any of the classic mythology around many of the fantasy creatures portrayed here.
Because of this, at times this felt a little less like Middle Grade and more like a collection of fables starring Marabel and her friends. They’d encounter one fairytale creature, solve a small dilemma, and then move on to the next. Rinse, and repeat. I think this could have used a dash of real danger, especially near the end and it could have been truly epic. Without it, the plot arc feels like it’s missing something.
Still, it was an enjoyable story and I’d not mind reading another book by Tracy Barrett one day! Perfect for young readers eager to jump into fantasy.
🌟🌟🌟✯ = 3.5 stars out of 5!
Thank you Netgalley and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for approving me for an ARC!
Are you as hooked on Middle Grade stories as I am? What are some of your favorites from childhood or today?