Now this is pretty funny. This would mark the first time I've had to review a book my fellow Book-Club member, J. N. Future Author, has already covered (see his review here). ^_^ Of course, there's a major difference between our two reviews: I'm gonna go the extra mile and review both books in the series, both of which I read and thoroughly enjoyed. Hey, I guess this would also be the first time I review a series, and not just one book at a time. Maybe I should do that more often... That's what my friend Graham does. He "Chops" books, as well as series. ^,~
Anyway, let me say that J. N. was right about how great this book really is (not to mention it's sequel, which I'll get to later.) In the beginning there's a troll who finds a young boy named Christian lost in the woods, and the troll eventually takes him in and raises the boy as his own. I gotta say, Edric the Troll is definitely a ton nicer and good-natured than Shrek the Ogre is. Not to mention funnier. Ed has these silly expressions that sound like familiar sayings, only they're kind of mixed-up, so it doesn't make much sense but you get the idea of what he's saying anyway. He's a good character.
But what J. N. did not tell you (but what I'm about to =P) is that 11 years later, the teenage Christian starts falling in love with Princess Marigold, who lives in the castle across the river. It's a very sweet, innocent type of love, since he's lived with a troll for many years and doesn't know much about girls. On impulse, he sends her a message by carrier pigeon one day, and when she sends him her reply, a close kind of pen-pal friendship develops and blossoms beteen the two teenagers. To me, that's pretty romantic. ^,^
So a year later, Chris decides to get a job at the palace, even though he knows that he can't talk to Marigold at all, because after all, royalty never fraternizes with servants. While working however, he learns that the princess is about to be married off, so that's pretty tough for him. PLUS he overhears a plot from the evil Queen Olympia, who wants to "get rid" of Marigold, as well as her father, the kindly but quite lazy King Swithbert, so that she'd be the only one running the kingdom. And that wouldn't be good at all!
This book is a wonderful (and yes, short) read with an innocent, fairy-tale like style of story-telling and characters that seem almost literally to leap off the pages, fully formed with a personality, dreams, feelings, something to offer the world, and a history of life. The jokes are funny, the action is gripping, the romance is something to smile at, and at the very end every single loose end is tied up and everybody lives happily ever after. Nothing and nobody gets forgotten.
Or do they?...
"Once Upon a Marigold" was published in 2004, and the author, one Jean Ferris, had apparently meant the story to be a stand-alone novel, despite one last, obvious, tiny detail that didn't get wrapped up in the end. Last year however, the sequel "Twice Upon a Marigold" was released as a result of people writing Jean Ferris and asking to know what exactly happens after Chris and Marigold's "happily ever after." (Yes, they get married. Sorry I couldn't save you the suspense. ~_~) It's a good thing she wrote this next book, because to me, that one tiny detail I talked about just begged for a sequel to be made!
This takes place a year after the events of the first book. Unfortunately, I will have to reveal a couple more spoilers for you to understand the story. See, the evil Queen Olympia gets defeated in the end (sorry) and pushed off a terrace into the river, where she's washed away and supposedly never heard from again. But what really happens is that she turns up in another village where she's lost her memory and doesn't remember about being a queen or anything from her past life. So she starts life anew and actually gets a better personality, which seemed impossible to those who read the first book. Eventually however, she somehow gets her memory back and loses her niceness, so she begins a journey back to the kingdom, plotting a new scheme to be the one in charge of everything.
Meanwhile, it's been a year since Christian's and Marigold's marriage, and they've hit their first bump in the road. They start fighting for the first time and they don't even know why. Of course, things get really bad when Olympia shows up again and throws Edric, King Swithbert and Prince Magnus, the dude who was supposed to marry Marigold in the first place but had since got a life, in the dungeon. When Christian and Marigold find out about it, they start making a plan to get the servants, guards and the general public riled up about the Queen's return, so they can rescue their friends and King and Olympia can get what she deserves.
This story is a bit (okay, a lot) more complicated than the first one, so I've held myself back from revealing too much. I think I did pretty well, too, if I do say so myself. ^,~ But just like in "Once Upon a Marigold," in the end everything gets wrapped up nice and neat, with every character going off to live their dreams (mm-hmm, even Queen Olympia. Or should I say, Angelica?) and living happily ever after. And I'm sure that this time, there's no room for debate that this story is over, because I don't see how this series can possibly be made into a trilogy. Ms. Ferris definitely made a clean cut this time.
I liked this book because of the addition of a couple new characters, who showed just as much life as the original cast, and because of the funny references to future inventions, such as the development of knock-knock jokes (imagine how that came about. Someone actually doubted it would catch on! ^,^) and the start of Christmas. It was all just hilarious.
I honestly absolutely loved this series of two and recommend it highly. Both books remind me somewhat of the Shrek movies, though these books were much better in my opinion. Also, the style in which they were written made me think of the classic fairy-tale modernized, just like J. K. Rowling's "Tales of Beedle the Bard." Collectively, it really seems like a great story for young and old readers alike. Pick them up! You won't be sorry!
Edit: Oh, and I forgot to mention something really cool... I read Twice Upon a Marigold in just one day! Can you believe that?! Yeah, it's that short a read. So why don't you check both these books out? Because they won't take up too much of your time!