The Chestnut King: A satisfying conclusion

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fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Chestnut King by N.D. Wilson children's fantasy audiobook reviewsThe Chestnut King by N.D. Wilson

In this final installment in N.D. Wilson’s 100 CUPBOARDS fantasy trilogy for children, Henry is living in the world behind the cupboards with his “real” family, but he is still able to get to Kansas to play baseball with his friend Zeke. Henry has a lot on his mind. He’s been having scary visions that seem prophetic and he is worried about the scar that’s growing on his face. It was caused by a drop of the evil witch’s blood and Henry suspects that it will eventually drive him mad and/or give the witch control over him. Henry’s friend Frank the Fat Faery has been disowned by the faeries because he helped Henry break the curse that bound Mordecai.

Henry is happy to be reunited with all the people he loves, and to meet his older brother James who has arrived to see him, but the familial bliss doesn’t last long. When the emperor and the witch send men to capture Henry, he escapes into Kansas with his cousin Henrietta and their grandmother while the castle burns down around them. Most of the rest of the family is taken hostage and put on a slave ship. It’s up to Henry, Henrietta, Zeke, and their faery friends, to set things right.

Fans of the previous two books, 100 Cupboards and Dandelion Fire, will surely be pleased with the finale of this trilogy. The pace is leisurely for most of the story, the interactions between the good guys are sweet, the faeries continue to amuse, and there are some scary, and even gruesome, moments, too. Henry gets all the answers he needs, the ending is bittersweet, and the epilogue is quite satisfying. The language is sometimes lovely.

Children who haven’t read much epic fantasy will have more patience with 100 CUPBOARDS than I did. The story has too many similarities to the typical Tolkienesque heroic fantasy quest for me to feel compelled to read it in a rush, so it took me longer to finish it than it should have. I wouldn’t hesitate, though, to recommend this series to a child between the ages of 9 and 14. It would also make a nice family read. I can recommend the audio version read by Russell Horton.


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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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