Victor’s Quest by Pamela Freeman
In the third and final book of the Floramunde trilogy, we were briefly introduced to a character called Victor (who sadly failed in the attempt to win Princess Betony’s hand due to his unfortunate stupidity). But Victor wasn’t a total pushover. He may not be very clever, but he’s brave and kind, and has a very intelligent horse that makes up for his own lack of sense. And he’s still single, something that his mother wants him to rectify immediately.
He’s sent off on a quest to find and marry a princess, armed with a range of herbal remedies from Marigold the gardener, and some sound advice: “Remember the old rules: be kind, be polite to everyone you meet, and be pure of heart.” Along with his horse Quince, he heads into the Dark Forest of Nevermore (Betony made a similar journey in Windrider) and comes across the usual suspects: animals that need to be helped, witches who need to be conquered, geographical ‘problem areas’ that need to be avoided, and a damsel who needs saving. All the plot threads come together in a satisfying conclusion, and Victor proves that — given a little time — he can come up with the solutions he needs on his own.
I’m not sure if it was Freeman’s intention, but this seemed a particularly sage bit of advice on dealing with children facing their own obstacles: sit back, let them mull it over, and they’ll probably figure it out for themselves.
In light of that, it’s worth saying that the two Victor books are aimed at a much younger audience than the Floramunde trilogy. Though set in the same world, the story is much more simple, and the books themselves are designed for children who are just beginning to read by themselves (which is fitting, considering that Victor’s simplicity helps him act as a stand-in for a child reader).
Victor’s Quest has a more comedic tone than the Floramunde trilogy, what with its somewhat foolish protagonist, not-so-villainous villain and hoard of giant chickens, but at its heart it’s a fairytale. The prince must brave danger, and muster what little wits he has in order to win the princess. Marigold’s gifts are indeed serendipitous, and all used at their correct place and time. Kindness is rewarded, love is at first sight, and we get to enjoy lines like this:
“Are you a prisoner here, fair maiden?” Victor sighed happily. He’d been waiting years to say that line.
I’d recommend Victor’s Quest for parents who want to give newly-independent readers an intelligent story, young readers who have yet to graduate on to the original Floramunde trilogy, or those who want another little taste of Floramunde. As an added bonus, both books are illustrated in Kim Gamble’s soft water-colours, which manage to be both dreamy and comedic at the same time.
Floramonde — (1996-2009) Ages 9-12. From Author’s Website: When Betony was a baby, the court wizard made a prophecy: she will be friends with strange creatures; she will face danger many times; she will find love in unexpected places; and she will become a great queen. Betony is brought up to be a proper princess, but she hates all the fuss about dancing, embroidery and the right way to talk to a viscount. She’d rather work in the garden or explore the world outside the palace. So she runs away, and through her adventures she discovers that it takes courage and the help of good friends — including a certain gardener’s boy — to find her true path in life.
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