The Ogress and the Orphans - Kelly Barnhill
With a strapline of 'There is kindness in magic', and the publishing date being a Thursday when I start my #kindnessripple on Twitter (follow me as @richreadlot), how could I not agree to be part of the blog tour for this enchanting tale from New York Times bestselling author, Kelly Barnhill, out today from Piccadilly Press?
A new fantasy classic from the Newbery Medal winning and New York Times bestselling author of THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON Stone-in-the-Glen, once a lovely town, has fallen on hard times. Fires, floods, and other calamities have caused the townsfolk to lose their library, their school, their park, and all sense of what it means to be generous, and kind. The people put their faith in the Mayor, a dazzling fellow who promises he alone can help. After all, he is a famous dragon slayer. (At least, no one has seen a dragon in his presence.) Only the clever orphans of the Orphan House and the kindly Ogress at the edge of town can see how dire the town's problems are. When one of the orphans goes missing from the Orphan House, all eyes turn to the Ogress. The orphans, though, know this can't be: the Ogress, along with a flock of excellent crows, secretly delivers gifts to the people of Stone-in-the-Glen. But how can the orphans tell the story of the Ogress's goodness to people who refuse to listen? And how can they make their deluded neighbours see the real villain in their midst? The orphans have heard a whisper that they will 'save the day', but just how, they will have to find out ...
Telling the tale of a town taken in by a smooth-talking mayor, and a gang of orphans struggling to persuade them of the truth when things go wrong, this is a classic twist on a traditional tale and many a fairy story - good vs evil, true vs false, weak vs power and outsiders struggling to fit in or falsely getting the blame when things go wrong.
Messages about kindness, acceptance, bravery and community/belonging are central to the plot, and the writing style is very engaging, drawing you into the story alongside the mysterious narrator (I loved the asides!) and the characters, good and bad. The characters, too, are another of the things I loved about the book -I'm sure that the crows will be favourites with other readers, alongside the kind and generous ogress herself, the story-telling trees, and even the mean and grumpy townsfolk - all of them playing a part in making this a modern-day classic of a book with a tapestry of people and places created in the world of the story. The Ogress, the orphans, the magical elements all did remind me a little too, of Dahl's BFG (not a bad thing!)- persuading the powers and people that the giant in their midst was friendly after all!
I loved the premise of a library burning down being the start of the town's troubles - what a powerful message about the importance of books in society! Bartleby, too, and the stories he hears around him also continues the message about the importance and power of stories in the world. The character of the mayor, telling lies and exaggerating his abilities, will draw many a comparison with modern politicians from readers astute enough to make the connections!
I'm new to this author's work, but I loved this, and can see why she has received the acclaim for her other books if this is anything to go by. There is humour and humanity, bravery, action and a great plot that keeps you engaged as you join the orphans and the Ogress of Stone-in-the-Glen in trying to put things right.
Thanks to Piccadilly Press for having me on the blog tour today and for the copy of the book to review. You can find out more about this publisher via their website or on Twitter: www.piccadillypress.co.uk and @PiccadillyPress
You can buy a copy of this book yourself via this link: smarturl.it/OgressandtheOrphans
See what others think at their stops on the blog tour via the links below:
Author, Kelly Barnhill is at kellybarnhill.com/ and on Twitter as @kellybarnhill
Review by Rich Simpson (@richreadalot on Twitter and Instagram), March 2022. All opinions my own.