Title: The Astonishing Chronicles of Oscar From Elsewhere (Kingdoms and Empires 4)
Author: Jaclyn Moriarty
Published: November 2021
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Readership: Middle Grade
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
The magical fourth book in the rich and whimsical world of the Kingdoms and Empires about a non-magical boy called Oscar who finds himself caught up in a surprisingly urgent quest in an even more surprising world.
1) Bronte, a girl who makes magical ‘Spellbinding’ rings,
2) Alejandro, a former pirate/current prince who can shoot arrows and make fire from stones,
3) Imogen, who can read broken maps and is a kickboxing master,
4) Esther, who saved her entire world from some kind of ancient monster,
5) Astrid, a smart ten year old who can read minds, and
6) Gruffudd, a surprisingly speedy (and always hungry) Elf.
And who am I? Just a kid who skips school to ride a skateboard.
The Astonishing Chronicles of Oscar from Elsewhere is the account of Monday through Friday of last week. That’s when Oscar found himself on a quest to locate nine separate pieces of a key, held by nine separate people, in order to unlock a gluggy silver spell that had trapped the Elven city of Dun-sorey-lo-vay-lo-hey. The quest was an urgent one. Friday at noon, the spell would become permanent, the Elves would be crushed to death and Oscar would be trapped in this magical world forever. (The account, it should be noted, has been written at the request of a small public school’s Deputy Principal. She wants to know exactly what Oscar considered more important than coming to school last week.)
From the award-winning Jaclyn Moriarty comes an enchanting tale of cryptic challenges, breathtaking danger and 360 kick flips.
I’ve been reading the Kingdoms and Empires series since the first book was released, and it continues to be a delightful middle grade fantasy-adventure series for kids. The difference between the previous three titles and the new one, The Astonishing Chronicles of Oscar From Elsewhere, is that our title character is not magical and not from the pre-exisiting world that we know – he’s from our world – and he finds himself lost and having to experience the realities of this strange new place for the first time.
Oscar’s having a regular morning – regular, meaning he’s skipped out on school to go skateboard in the park – when he finds himself transported to a new world where he’s promptly swallowed up by a spell that leaves him unconscious. When he wakes, he’s met by a crew of 6 other children (plus a tiny elven child), and they’re tasked with finding nine pieces of a magical key that will unlock a spell that has trapped an elven city.
This quest is told from two POVs – Oscar’s and Imogen, and features plenty of other characters who’ve featured in their own stories so far. While it probably makes sense to read all of the books in order, it’s not strictly necessary – it might just help with understanding the relationship between the other characters and some of the references scattered throughout the book.
It was nice having an ‘other’ POV in this book – Oscar is truly trying to find his bearings from the moment he steps foot out of his own world, and the others don’t know quite what to make of him. As the six go questing for their missing key pieces they encounter all sorts of individuals, from the mundane to the magical to the dangerous, and the story felt kind of reminiscent of The Fellowship of the Ring at times – nothing too overt, just little hints that people familiar with that classic might pick up on.
I enjoyed that it was written as a report being given on the events over the course of a week – Oscar is tasked with explaining to his principal why he has not been at school – and that added a fun element that kids can relate to (even if, as a teacher myself, I found the portrayal of the principal to be stereotypical).
Overall, this was a fun book that middle grade fantasy readers will probably enjoy – there’s puzzles to solve, quests and action scattered evenly enough to keep the pace going. I look forward to seeing what the next adventure in this world will be.