The Marvelous Misadventures of Sebastian
by Lloyd Alexander
This 1971 National Book Award winner plays on two themes close to Lloyd Alexander's heart: cats and violins. Set in the imaginary kingdom of Hamelin-Loring, it tells the adventures of a handsome young fourth-chair violinist who gets thrown out on his ear, and soon afterward gets entangled in dangerous adventures with a clever white cat, a runaway princess disguised as a boy, and various other characters who are dissatisfied with the cruel, tyrranical Regent who runs the country.
Forced to flee from the Regent's "bloodhounds" (read: bounty hunters, assassins, and torturers), Sebastian and the Princess Isabel hope to get out of Hamelin-Loring or, if possible, to hook up with a mysterious Captain who is gathering an army of resistance. On their way they join a theatre troupe called Gallimaufry-Theatricus, dance with a bear, acquire an accursed fiddle, and get lost in a hot-air balloon. When the balloon comes down in the capital city, they're in more trouble than ever with almost everyone in town out to get them.
Before the expected fairy-tale happy ending can take place, Sebastian's misadventures take him to a very low depth of grief and despair. And the final solution turns out to be a combination of Alexander's two favorite things.
It's a charming adventure, with a bit of romance, thrills, chills, narrow escapes, an adorable cat, and some nifty surprises. And the main characters, Sebastian and Isabel, grow a lot and learn to know themselves better. The dastardly villain is surprisingly effective, considering that you only actually see him once and he never says a word. And the conclusion is not quite that pat "and they lived happily ever after" ending that so many tales have, yet it's very satisfying.
Recommended Age: 8+
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