“The Unready Queen” by William Ritter
Source: ARC from Algonquin
Genre: Middle Grade Fiction, Fantasy,
Human and goblin brothers Cole and Tinn are finding their way back to normal after their journey to the heart of the Oddmire. Normal, unfortunately, wants nothing to do with them. Fable, the daughter of the Queen of the Deep Dark, has her first true friends in the brothers. The Queen allows Fable to visit Tinn and Cole as long as she promises to stay quiet and out of sight—concealing herself and her magic from the townspeople of Endsborough.
But when the trio discovers that humans are destroying the Wild Wood and the lives of its creatures for their own dark purposes, Fable cannot stay quiet. As the unspoken truce between the people of Endsborough and the inhabitants of the Wild Wood crumbles, violence escalates, threatening war and bringing Fable’s mother closer to the fulfillment of a deadly prophecy that could leave Fable a most Unready Queen.
If The Changeling was all about familial love, The Unready Queen is all about finding your place in this world. It’s something everyone has struggled with at one point or another. Cole, Tinn, Fable and our new friend Evie struggle with different varieties of it.
The thing I’ve enjoyed the most about The Oddmire series is how Ritter handles big subjects in a zany, fun way. I’ve read many children’s/middle grade books over the years. Not every adult does a great job of exploring big subjects in a way that isn’t preachy to kids. Ritter is able to present these ideas and let them play out. He knows kids are smart enough to read the story and connect the dots to things they see in their lives.
I’m also a big fan of how much mothers play a part in the story! Far too often in kid lit we have dead parents, missing parents, or oblivious parents. Not here. Annie is the mama bear we all need. She fiercely loves her kids as well as the other children she claims as her kids. She will do anything for them. Then we have Raina, a literal mama bear, who is doing the best she can (even if it might be a bit misguided).
Thankfully, there is no boring middle book syndrome here. Just our characters continuing to grow. Hopefully that continues in the next (final?) installment.