The stolen prince of Cloudburst by Jaclyn Moriarty
A Kingdom and Empires. Allen & Unwin, 2020. 536pp. ISBN:
(Age: 9-12) Highly recommended. Esther returns to start year 6 at Katherine Valley Boarding School. All the giggling girls are delighted by their new teacher, Mrs Pollock. Two of Esther's best friends have left and the new intriguing Autumn and Pelagia have taken their place. Esther is normally a high achieving student but now can never get better than a C-. She also gets detentions which prevent her from attending fun events. Her confidence plummets. A shocking incident creates mayhem and leads to a number of revelations. Autumn is from a family of Whisperers who are regarded suspiciously. Katya, who has played an important role protecting the school from Shadow Mages, has to be sent away for medical help. Esther runs herself ragged trying to do Katya's job. Fortunately Esther gets a break when the family go to Spindrift to join in celebrations to welcome back long lost Alejandro, Prince of Cloudburst. However more catastrophe ensues with rising oceans and tidal waves. Is it climate change or some other sinister magic? Esther and her family are in the thick of it, unearthing mysteries and battling evildoers.
This was a delicious, addictive and satisfying fantasy. It subtly weaves themes of bullying, resilience and friendship into the plot. So many things go wrong for Esther but she is never despairing as she continues talking to us readers, with humorous asides and reminders of previous incidents. It has a lovely old-worldy setting, being an English style boarding school and the seaside, but it is never fusty. The characters are all quirky and baddies abound such as the Radish Gnomes. Although this is quite a long book the many pencil illustrations by Kelly Canby and short chapters don't make it feel onerous. In fact the publication is quite inviting. This is the third book in A Kingdom and Empires series, although it can be read as a stand-alone. It will more likely appeal to confident readers and is similar to books like the Stella Montgomery series by Judith Rossell.