Title: The Astonishing Chronicles of Oscar from Elsewhere
Author: Jaclyn Moriarty
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Published: 2nd November 2021
Synopsis: The magical fourth book in the rich and whimsical world of the Kingdoms and Empires about a non-magical boy called Oscar who finds himself caught up in a surprisingly urgent quest in an even more surprising world.
Let me get this straight. I’m on a trip with the following people:
1) Bronte, a girl who makes magical ‘Spellbinding’ rings,
2) Alejandro, a former pirate/current prince who can shoot arrows and make fire from stones,
3) Imogen, who can read broken maps and is a kickboxing master,
4) Esther, who saved her entire world from some kind of ancient monster,
5) Astrid, a smart ten year old who can read minds, and
6) Gruffudd, a surprisingly speedy (and always hungry) Elf.
And who am I? Just a kid who skips school to ride a skateboard.
The Astonishing Chronicles of Oscar from Elsewhere is the account of Monday through Friday of last week. That’s when Oscar found himself on a quest to locate nine separate pieces of a key, held by nine separate people, in order to unlock a gluggy silver spell that had trapped the Elven city of Dun-sorey-lo-vay-lo-hey. The quest was an urgent one. Friday at noon, the spell would become permanent, the Elves would be crushed to death and Oscar would be trapped in this magical world forever. (The account, it should be noted, has been written at the request of a small public school’s Deputy Principal. She wants to know exactly what Oscar considered more important than coming to school last week.)
From the award-winning Jaclyn Moriarty comes an enchanting tale of cryptic challenges, breathtaking danger and 360 kick flips.
Oscar lives in Sydney, with his stepfather – his real father and mother are no longer in his life. Left to his own devices much of the time, Oscar finds himself taking off from school to the skatepark – yet as he skates, he tumbles through a portal into another world – the world of Kingdoms and Empires, and is whisked away on an adventure with three sisters – Imogen, Esther and Astrid – and their cousin, Bronte to Dun-sorey-lo-vay-lo-hey on a quest to save the elves buried beneath a large silver wave – joined by Gruffud, the only elf who has survived the spell sending the entire city into a deep slumber. To free the city, Oscar and his companions must head off on a five day quest to find nine different parts of a key – the only way to free the city and find out why Imogen was summoned there in the first place by the Elf King.
The fourth book in the Kingdoms and Empires series starts in our world, and then hurtles us – with Oscar – into Kingdoms and Empires, with a premise of finding a new home in the new world – as Jaclyn Moriarty said in an interview with Good Reading Magazine, it allows Oscar to head back to this fantasy world, and to stay there without having to leave as so many characters do when they get ‘too old’ – such as they do in Narnia. The story is told in two alternating perspectives – Oscar and Imogen, and as the story unfolds, we find out more about them, and why they are as they are – especially as we reach the end where the revelations towards the end lead to a delightful conclusion that allows the characters to continue to enjoy each other’s company.
Each book in this series fits in with each other, with at least one going back in time a little, yet this one continues our adventures with Bronte and her cousins, and now, Oscar, yet each can also be read as a stand-alone story. However, I have had a lot of fun reading them in order, and think being able to read in both ways is exciting and refreshing for a series like this. It makes the series engaging and forges a way for kids to engage with the series, and pick it up at any stage, and go back and forth, and reread their favourite book as many times as they want, whilst still getting something fun out of the series, as each book is its own story, yet at the same time, each book is tied to each other, and introduces us to what we need to know from the previous books to move the story along and keep the reader interested whilst still giving them the information they need to understand and engage with the story.
Combining our world and the world of Kingdoms and Empires works seamlessly as Oscar and Imogen work to understand each other and come to understand their quest, and what they each contribute to what they need to do.
This delightful book gives kids an escape from the realities of the world, and time away from everything that is out of their control. Here, they are allowed to be kids, and explore and go on an adventure that gives them agency and sparks their imagination – they can imagine going on this jaunt with their friends and is filled with games and puzzles to keep them entertained as they read. I love this series and look forward to seeing if there are more and how many more there will be. Whilst aimed at middle grade readers, these books are highly detailed and perhaps aimed at confident readers and those seeking a decent chunk of adventure and story to sink their teeth into, and escape for hours to a new world, and one that they can also relate to through the characters and what they are feeling.
What a lovely book, and one that I loved – there’s something beautiful about this world – even though there have been large gaps between releases, I feel like I have come home each time I read these books, and feel like we are all welcome in this world – which is magical and delightful and all readers aged ten and older who have entered this world will be welcome and at home.