The Stolen Prince of Cloudburst: A Kingdoms and Empires Book by Jaclyn Moriarty, illustrated by Kelly Canby, Allen & Unwin, 2020
When I was six we all had to read from a favourite book to the class. I jumped for joy at this golden opportunity. It was really hard picking just one book so I picked the biggest book on my shelves. It definitely wasn’t the best book or even my favourite but it had (maybe my memory is exaggerating) at least 500 pages. I thought I would get to spend all year reading to the class. It was SO big I had trouble holding it. My teacher took one look at the book and said Gosh that’s a big book Paula. Maybe just read the first page and give everyone a taste. My heart sank. It definitely wasn’t one of my favourite childhood books because I can hardly remember anything about it now. Except it was about Brownies and I had never got to be a Brownie and get badges and do secret signs or whatever it was they did.
I was reminded of this embarrassing moment as a fan of books, because I have just finished reading a really really long book for older children (10 to 14 say). It is 535 pages and I loved every single bit and bite of it. Jacyln Moriarty has set two earlier books in her invented world, the Kingdoms and Empires, but I haven’t read them yet. So they are on their way to my letterbox and I can’t wait! ( I think I should call it a bookbox I order so many books!) .
Esther Mettlestone-Staranise goes to Katherine Valley Boarding School. Jaclyn is extremely good at making up names and I roll them around on my tongue like juicy marbles.
TRIPLE BUT!! On the first day back everything is a bit different. Esther’s two best friends aren’t at school. She has a new teacher and everyone says she is an ogre but she turns out to be very funny and very strange and very surprising and no matter what she does everyone loves her. And there are two new girls at the school, both in Esther’s class, and they are also very surprising. I was personally very surprised at the way the teacher teased the students in her class. And nothing Esther does is good enough for her. That can’t be right! Especially stories and Esther loves writing stories.
Esther has two talented sisters (one is an excellent swimmer, the other can spot when someone is telling a lie and both are good at poker). Her father is an historian who always listens (well usually) and her mother is not as nice to her as she is to her sisters. She has a job that seems important but is hard to explain.
The school is surrounded by mountains but this term there is an evil threat: the Shadow Mages. The school needs to be protected, and what with THIS and THAT, this mishap and that catastrophe, it is up to Esther to protect and save the school.
What a page turner!
What a how-you-heart-will-beat-faster-as-you-read book.
What a spider’s web of mysterious things and people and happenings.
What I adored about this book – aside from the cool characters and the challenging circumstances and the magnificent settings and the page-turning plot – are the exquisitely woven threads on what it is to BE in a world where not everything and everyone is perfect. You get to think about how we are not all the same and how we can be shades of good and bad. And how there are so many different ways to grow into being a grownup but how some things always matter: kindness, listening, sharing, supporting, taking little risks, understanding difference, building peace, justice.
I love LOVE love this book. I was feeling really gloomy even though it was a blue-sky day but reading this SUPERLATIVE book made very happy indeed. Jaclyn’s sentences sing, her ideas sizzle and her imagination is so elastic it might send you to the moon and back. Yes I am now full to the brim with the very best book comfort. I would so loved to have read it to my class! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Jaclyn Moriarty is the prize-winning author of novels for children, young adults and adults. The Kingdoms and Empires books, a series of standalone books for 10 to 14-year-olds, include The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone, The Slightly Alarming Tale of the Whispering Wars and The Stolen Prince of Cloudburst. The first two books in the series have won and been short-listed for a number of prizes. A former media and entertainment lawyer, Jaclyn grew up in Sydney, lived in the US, the UK and Canada, and now lives in Sydney again.
Allen and Unwin page