I'm so excited to have The Real Boy Blog Tour stopping by today with my review, my fun interview with Anne Ursu, AND a giveaway for a signed copy...
The Real Boy
by Anne Ursu
Walden Pond Press
On an island on the edge of an immense sea there is a city, a forest, and a boy. The city is called Asteri, a perfect city that was saved by the magic woven into its walls from a devastating plague that swept through the world over a hundred years before. The forest is called the Barrow, a vast wood of ancient trees that encircles the city and feeds the earth with magic. And the boy is called Oscar, a shop boy for the most powerful magician in the Barrow. Oscar spends his days in a small room in the dark cellar of his master's shop, grinding herbs and dreaming of the wizards who once lived on the island generations ago. Oscar's world is small, but he likes it that way. The real world is vast, strange, and unpredictable. And Oscar does not quite fit in it.
But it's been a long time since anyone who could call himself a wizard walked the world, and now that world is changing. Children in the city are falling ill, and something sinister lurks in the forest. Oscar has long been content to stay in his small room in the cellar, comforted in the knowledge that the magic that flows from the trees will keep his island safe. Now, even magic may not be enough to save it.
I received an ARC from the pub in exchange for my honest review
Anne Ursu’s The Real Boy is a spellbinding middle-grade fantasy full of magic, intrigue, mystery, and the unexpected. Within a magical forest of ancient trees called the Barrow, a forest that surrounds a walled-in shining city, lives a young boy named Oscar. Oscar works for a wizard and likes his small room in the dark cellar where he works. Quiet, different Oscar doesn’t fit in and isn’t what you’d call a people person, but when the children within the shining city start to get sick, Oscar must learn to work with a young healer apprentice, Callie, in order to save the sick and his beloved forest.
Ursu has such a wonderful and captivating talent for spinning familiar fairytale elements into something completely new and enchanting. The magical and fantastical world of Asteri and the Barrow are so beautifully crafted, the characters are charming and have so much depth, and the story Ursu spins is unforgettable.
The world-building in The Real Boy is excellent! Asteri (the shining city), the Barrow, and the plaguelands are all laid out and explored with rich, vibrant details, and the magical history of this world has such great layers. All together, this is a truly fantastic fantasy world that I found myself completely enraptured with and lost in. The Real Boy is both whimsically dark and haunting and achingly lovely and moving. There’s something so exquisite, yet accessible, and addicting about Ursu’s storytelling and writing; her descriptions and words just wrap themselves around you.
There are exciting and fun adventure and mystery elements in The Real Boy and the fantastical elements are superb and surprising, but at the heart of this book is a beautiful story about friendship, love, and faith. A story that is driven by some compelling and well-developed characters. Ursu has created something super special with her hero Oscar.
*may be spoilery (not so much plot, but characterization) beyond this point*
Oscar is unique and different in many ways and, although it is never said in the book, I believe Oscar is meant to be on the autism spectrum. Autistic characters are rarely seen in fantasy books, especially middle-grade fantasy books, and Ursu perfectly captures, not only the struggles autistic children face, but the beauty in Oscar’s uniqueness. One of the reasons I adore the character of Callie so much is that she never teases Oscar because of his differences or thinks less of him; she sees all the amazing and wonderful qualities in him. The friendship that develops between these two is so genuine and heart-warming.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS: Anne Ursu is a fairytale master and her talent simply shines in The Real Boy. The story, the world-building, the characters- all are fantastic, entertaining, and special. This is a gorgeous must read for young and older readers alike!
WS: What three words best describe The Real Boy?
AU- magical forest, cats
WS: Can you give us your best one sentence pitch to convince readers, especially reluctant readers, to give this book a try?
AU- A kid who no one believes in gets to become a hero--plus, there’s a really big monster.
WS: Your books often feature fairytale elements (which is awesome!), what is it about fairytales that you find so inspiring? Why do you think we, as readers, are so drawn to fairytales as children and long after?
AU- I think fairytales are a big rite of passage for kids--they are kids’ first deep connection with whatever it is in us that longs for storytelling and connection with collective myth. Fairy tales hook us on story when we’re children, and I think that gives us a profound love for them. They also give kids (and adults) a safe place for their sense of magic and wonder to grow and thrive.
WS- As an author of several middle-grade books why do you think MG Lit is so important? What do you love about writing and reading middle-grade? What are some of your fave MG reads?
AU- I love middle grade--this age is all about figuring out the world and how to navigate it. It’s a delicate, fascinating time. Books help kids comprehend the growing world, and lend them some strength to master it. Readers this age are also so open--they don’t have a lot of prejudices about the way stories are supposed to work, as long as the stories are good. For a writer, there’s so much room to play and to explore big ideas.
Some of my favorite recent reads are The Humming Room by Ellen Potter, The Center of Everything by Linda Urban, The Winter of the Robots by Kurtis Scaletta, and The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. And I love Laurel Snyder’s upcoming Seven Stories Up with all my heart.
WS: Fill in the blanks:
I’m really awesome at
AU- making pie
I’m really embarrassed to admit that
AU- I haven’t opened my mail in some time.
The last great book I read was
AU- FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell.
WS: If you were to create and bake a cupcake inspired by The Real Boy what would it look and taste like, and what would you call it?
AU- Something very thick and rich, like a dark chocolate, with icing made out of lavender and rosehips. Called “The Remedy.”
Anne is the author of Breadcrumbs, a contemporary retelling of “The Snow Queen,” and the three books in The Cronus Chronicles series—The Shadow Thieves, The Siren Song, and The Immortal Fire. She has also written two books for adult readers. Anne teaches at Hamline University’s MFA in Writing for Children, and lives in Minneapolis with her young son.
Win a signed hardcover copy of
The Real Boy!
The awesome people at Walden Pond Press have offered one signed copy for one winner.
-will end 10/13
-must be 13+, one main/free entry per person
-winner will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours
-I am NOT responsible for lost, damaged, or stolen prizes
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ALSO, Walden Pond Press is hosting a Facebook sweepstakes in celebration of THE REAL BOY giving away $300 worth of books.