“The most priceless possession of the human race is the wonder of the world. Yet, latterly, the utmost endeavors of mankind have been directed towards the dissipation of that wonder . . . Nobody, any longer, may hope to entertain an angel unawares, or to meet Sir Lancelot in shining armor on a moonlit road. But what is the use of living in a world devoid of wonderment?” ~Kenneth Grahame, epigraph at the beginning of Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard by Jonathan Auxier.
What indeed? Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard, a sort of companion novel to Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes, is full of wonderment and adventure and storytelling and friendship and bravery and magic. The antagonists in the book either want squash nonsense (stories, magic, wonder) or to use the magic for nefarious and selfish purposes. Sophie, a twelve year old book mender and reader of all sorts of stories, wants to preserve and guard the stories, which brings me to my only quibble with this book itself. Sophie finds out fairly early in the story that she is the Last Storyguard, so I’m not sure why the book is called Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard. I guess the symmetry with Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes was too much to resist.
Peter Nimble does return to play a major role in this novel. He is Sophie’s rescuer, even when she doesn’t want to be rescued, her helper, especially when the skills of a Master Thief are called for, and her admirer, although the admiration is abashed and from afar. Peter Nimble is accompanied by the intrepid Sir Tode, part cat, part horse, part human, and Sophie picks up her own sidekick along the way, an enormous silver tigress named Akrasia. Together these friends adventure across the Grimmwald and through the city of Bustleburgh to stop the villains who are planning to stop, destroy and immolate all nonsense (stories, magic, wonder, books!).
I found this book to be thoroughly enjoyable and thought-provoking. The themes, implied in the Grahame epigraph, and demonstrated throughout the story, have to do with the power of stories and the need for magic, good and bad, and wonder, in a life that is worth the living. The book never comes out and says so, but one of the ideas that I gleaned was that it is necessary to have choices and villains to fight and goodness to aspire to for our stories to make sense. For reasons we do not, perhaps cannot, fully understand, it is God’s plan for the wheat and the tares to grow together until the judgment day (see Matthew 13:24-30). Maybe I’m getting too philosophical in response to a children’s fantasy book, but that’s the way my mind works.
Enjoy the story. Guard the stories. After all, what is the use of living in a world devoid of wonderment?
Sherry Early, Bookmender, Preservationist, Librarian, Storyguard.