What's it About?
Meet Fred and George, the young princelings of the Castle in the Marsh, who just happen to be guinea pigs. Fred and George are enjoying the King's Feast when they discover that the mysterious Energy Drain has struck again, ruining the elaborate meal. The two young princelings take matters into their own paws and head out determined to solve the mystery of what is draining energy in their kingdom as well as across the land.
As they head out through the labyrinth of tunnels in their marsh and into foreign territories, Fred and George soon get separated through time and space. Along their travels, the mystery deepens as they meet a colourful cast of characters including the shrewd businessman Hugo, Victor the barkeeper, Prince Lupin and Lady Nimrod, overseers of other castles, and Mariusz and Saku who are involved in the development of the drink du jour: Diet Wozna. Fred and George must identify friend from foe and learn to navigate the time tunnels to rejoin and put an end to the Energy Drain once and for all.
Jemima Pett has woven a suspenseful mystery featuring a cast of memorable characters headed by the two charismatic guinea pigs, Fred and George. Pett dives into the story right away introducing Fred and George and establishing the crux of the plot early in the book - namely, the mysterious Energy Drain. The plot line, with its many twists and turns, is very intricate and complex; thus, making it enjoyable for older tweens and even adults. Science fiction aficionados in particular will be interested in the element of time-travel in this book.
The complexity of the plot is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, this book requires concentration to read, in that, there are many characters to keep track of; there are clues leading up to solving the mystery that you need to attend to; and the element of time-travel keeps you guessing as to who is who really. That being said, the pace of the book is slow enough to notice and retain all the bits of information necessary to unravel the mystery. On the other hand, the complexity of the plot provides a challenge to more advanced independent readers including adults who are interested in thinking through the plot and trying to guess at the ending. It's very much a "thinking person's" book.
Of interest, is that Pett based the characters of the book on her own guinea pigs. As any pet owner can attest to, cats, dogs, hamsters, guinea pigs or other loving pets can provide a plethora of inspiration for storytelling. Pett attends carefully to the development of the two main characters, Fred the "Thinker" and his non-identical twin brother, George the "Engineer". In addition, as described above, there are many other characters, each of which is uniquely developed in the same meticulous way. Character development is very much a forte in this book.
I do have to comment, however, that I sometimes felt that the characters did not necessarily need to be portrayed as guinea pigs. Ok, yes, underground tunnels played an important role in the story, but I can't help but think that, with relatively minor changes to the context and setting, the characters could easily have been human. I sometimes forgot that they were guinea pigs and as I visualized the story unfolding, I imagined humans as the characters rather than guinea pigs.
Another endearing element to the book that I must mention are the simple pencil drawings (illustrated by Pett herself) at the beginning of each chapter accompanied by the most quirky chapter sub-titles I've encountered in a while. I'd like to provide two examples, so you can see how fun these are. The title of Chapter 7 is A Close Shave and the subtitle is as follows:
"In which George finds that engineers need people skills more than people need engineering skills"
Chapter 12 is titled The Adventures of Victor and the sub-title is as follows:
"In which Victor gets more than he bargained for but finds that brains often skip a generation"
I have to admit that I always got a chuckle out of these clever sub-titles. I really enjoyed those!
My bottom line:
Princelings of the East, Book 1 is a suspense-filled mystery strong on character development, with a deliciously complex and engaging plot, that is sure to be enjoyed by older tweens and adults alike.
Who Would Like This Book?
Given the elements of science fiction and fantasy as well as with the anthropomorphising of guinea pigs thrown in, there seems to be a bit of something for everyone in this book. However, given the complexity of the plot, I would recommend this book to children 10 years and older.
* This book was provided to us free-of-charge by the author exchange for an honest review.*