Tale of a 16-year-old girl, Meghan Chase. who must go to NeverNever, the land of faeries, to retrieve her 4-year-old brother Ethan who has been kidnapped and replaced by a changling. She is joined in her adventure by her best friend Robbie (also known as Robin Goodfellow/Puck), the Winter prince Ash. and a magical cat, Grimalkin. This book definitely called to mind The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Meghan is like Dorothy, Robbie is like the goofy yet lovable scarecrow, Ash is the tinman without a heart (although in this story he is weakened by metals)who learns to love, and Grimalkin, while not necessarily cowardly, certainly disappears when trouble is near.
While the scarecrow was my favorite Oz character, in his incarnation here as Robbie/Puck, he can be annoying, not taking things seriously enough, always playing the jester. No, my favorite is Grimalkin, the wise-cracking never-ruffled sidekick who makes himself scarce when the going gets rough. But, he never deserts Meghan and he often tries in vain to discourage Meghan's impulsive decisions. I think he's all bluster but a true friend. Of course, Meghan is in love with the cold-hearted Ash. Prince Ash, enemy of Meghan's good friend Puck, has vowed to kill Puck and deliver Meghan to his queen. Queen Mab does not have nice plans for our heroine.
There are all kinds of scary and unreal things in NeverNever like witches and gremlins, ogres, goblins, and gnomes. Powerful kings and queens, princes and knights. Much of NN is beautiful, but there is also war, and abuse of power, and the impinging real world which is threatening to obliterate NN. The story goes that in the olden days, people believed in faeries and goblins and such and they did indeed exist in an alternate world. As times changed, kids spend less time hearing fairy tales and more time playing computer games. They don't believe in faeries anymore. The world of computers is taking over NN, destroying the old wyldewoods, replacing them with dumps full of obsolete, discarded machinery. This machinery is infected with bugs and viruses which are spreading and infecting NN. This is the Iron Kingdom and this is where Meghan's brother is. In addition to saving Ethan, Meghan et al must defeat the Iron King to stop the ruination of NN. The Iron Tower,impenetrable and forboding, where Ethan is being held,is another reminder of Oz. They are assisted in penetrating the fortress by packrats (Munchkins).
Really a fun read with some closure at the end, but the door is left open for more in the series. well-done.
This book fufills "noble blood" requirement of challenge.