The Stolen Prince of Cloudburst by Jaclyn Moriarty

The familiar “child of destiny” trope receives a fresh, funny, and magical twist in The Stolen Prince of Cloudburst.

The Stolen Prince of Cloudburst by Jaclyn Moriarty. Levine Querido, 2021, 434 pages.

Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 10-12

Recommended for: ages 12-up

Esther Mettlestone-Staranise is a middle child, sandwiched between prodigy sisters Imogen and Astrid. Her only gift, that she can see, is story-telling, and that doesn’t impress her mother. Though her father is much more attentive, he’s been awfully busy with his historical research lately. Esther is looking forward to sixth grade at Katherine Valley Boarding School, but when she and her sisters arrive, her best friends aren’t there to greet her. No word or letters from them either. Also, there’s a rumor that their teacher is an ogre. Mrs. Pollock doesn’t look like an ogre—more like a wizened little child, whose funny faces and wild antics soon have the classroom in stitches. But Mrs. Pollock is serious about grading, especially on Esther, who can’t seem to score anything above a C-, even on math problems she knows are correct.

Soon enough, other oddities loom larger than test scores. All the Kingdoms and Empires must be continually watchful for malevolent beings like Radish Gnomes and Ghouls and (worst of all) Fiends. But now it seems that some of these creatures have been venturing out of their natural boundaries. Some have even spotted around the school. Esther is intrigued, since magic is a particular passion of hers, but soon that interest becomes more than theoretical. Sterling Silver Foxes steal the laughter from a classmate. Esther’s mid-term trip with her family almost ends in disaster. And she keeps having that dream where it’s always raining . . .

The motif of the “ordinary” child with a special destiny is so well-worn it takes a gifted author to make it seem fresh. Esther’s world is colorful, quirky, and most of all funny, with enough real danger and thrills to give it dramatic heft. Esther’s challenge is not so much self-discovery as it is self-sacrifice. Power lies in finding the truth, because “Truth is powerful.” The story takes a long time to build tension—for most of this long novel I wasn’t sure where it was going—but the world-building is enough to hang in for the ride until it gets good.

Overall Rating: 4.25 (out of 5)

  • Worldview/moral value: 4
  • Artistic/literary value: 4.5

Read more about our ratings here.

Also at Redeemed Reader:

Review: See our review of the first volume in Jaclyn Moriarty’s Colors of Madeline Trilogy, A Corner of White.

Reviews: Brandon Sanderson is another world-builder who writes engrossing (and clean) fantasy/sci-fi for teens, such as The Rithmatist series, Skyward, and Starsight.

Reflection: In “The Golden Key and the Christian Imagination,” Betsy ponders the importance of George McDonald as a pioneer of modern fantasy fiction.

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Janie Cheaney

Janie is the VERY senior staff writer for Redeemed Reader, as well as a long-time contributor to WORLD Magazine and an author of nine books for children. The rest of the time she's long-distance smooching on her four grandchildren (not an easy task). She lives with her equally senior husband of almost-fifty years in the Ozarks of Missouri.

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