‘Marabel and the Book of Fate’ by Tracy Barrett Is a Middle Grade Fantasy With Princesses and Unicorns But also Plenty of Feminist Appeal


“Marabel and the Book of Fate” by Tracy Barrett is a clever book about a young girl, a princess, who is not afraid to act in spite of often being treated as if she is a fragile creature with no brains and no abilities.

Marabel’s twin brother, Marcos, was born at the exact moment to fulfill a prophesy in the Book of Fate, a book with truths (or so those who translate it believe), so he is considered the Chosen One. What that exactly means is unclear, but Marcos is all-important and Marabel, his twin, who was born one minute later, feels invisible. Her mother died when they were young, her stepmother is kind, but her father, the king, is rather distant and uninvolved.

Marabel appears feisty from the start. She studies sword-fighting even though her stepmother does not approve. Lucius, the sword-fighting teacher, encourages her and gives her a wooden practice sword. (Clue: the sword is more than it appears to be.) From the start, the reader can sense that Marabel is cleverer than her brother. Marcos is sweet and gentle; Marabel is forthright and impatient.

When Marcos is kidnapped on the night of their thirteenth birthday by Queen Mab, their aunt, who wants to rule the kingdom of Magikos where they live, Marabel is determined that he be rescued. Queen Mab rules the Wild Land past the wall that was built to keep magic out of Magikos. When Marabel’s father and his advisers refuse to listen to her and want to wait rather then setting out on a rescue mission, she sets out to rescue Marcos herself with the aid of her best friend and servant, Ellie, and a unicorn, Floriano. The three encounter danger after danger, but also some kind people, and they learn that people on the “wild” side of the wall separating the two kingdoms are not all evil.

Mab, also, is not what one might expect. At the start, she is Marco’s kidnapper and  threatens him. But by the end of the story, her true character comes through — and she and Marabel have a lot in common. Not only does Marabel rescue Marcos and return to Magikos safely with her companions and her twin brother, she is clever enough and brave enough to save the whole kingdom in the end.

While the book might appeal more to girls than boys because the protagonist is female, boys would love the adventure and the fantasy. And the lead character’s determination to be judged on the basis of her character rather than her gender should be universally appreciated and valued. This is a story that screams female empowerment, and in today’s society, that’s a wonderful message for young girls — and boys — of every background. But the novel as a whole is not simply a political message; rather it’s a charming story filled with action and lovely characters — none of whom is perfect — who learn that by working together they can accomplish much.

This is a perfect choice for readers from third grade through sixth grade. It would make a good read aloud for the classroom as well. The publisher says this is the first book in a series, but the ending makes it a lovely stand-alone book as well.

Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by the publishers,  Little, Brown and Company Books for Young Readers, for review purposes. 

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