Once Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris: Book Review

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Cover of Once upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris

4 Stars

My seven-year-old cousin and fellow lover-of-all-things-fairy, Natalie, convinced me to read this by reciting the cover blurb to me: “Part comedy, part love story, part everything-but-the-kitchen-sink.” What fairy tale fan could resist that? Not this one!

I loved that the defining characteristics of the characters weren’t their beauty or lack thereof. Chris is intelligent, kind, and loyal. He’s also an inventor. He’s the first in the kingdom to use p-mail (pigeon mail). Princess Marigold is a reader, also intelligent and kind, and very concerned with making sure that she becomes a good strong ruler of her kingdom. She even asks commoners’ opinions on the qualities that a good ruler should have! Even the minor characters are generally defined by their personalities, good or bad. Looks really didn’t come into play at all. I found that a little refreshing.

The story was a little predictable. We first meet Chris when he’s a six-year-old runaway living in the woods. As he grows older, he starts to notice Princess Marigold, who he can watch as she reads on her terrace in the castle. He wants to be her friend, and he wants to know why she frequently looks unhappy. You can probably guess the general outline of the story, beginning to end, just from that. But there were still several surprises along the way that kept the story fresh.

Ed the troll might have been my favorite character. Oh, I really liked Chris and Marigold, but Ed made me laugh. He loves to use common sayings, but he can never get them right. Here’s one: “But now that you have your act on the ball, you can do better…All you have to do is keep your shoulder to the grindstone and your nose to the wheel.” Too funny! And he’s working hard to break a certain fairy creature’s monopoly. I won’t say who, but that whole little subplot was really cute.

I’m not sure exactly what set the villain off at this point in time. That’s probably the biggest thing that knocked this down a star. He or she (I won’t say who!) has had years to act. Why now?

If you read the epilogue, there’s a huge cliffhanger. I’ll be picking up the next one. As Natalie would quote at me, “Part comedy, part tragedy, part two!” Again, who could resist?

Reviewed September 26, 2009

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