The Stolen Prince of Cloudburst by Jaclyn Moriarty
Published by Allen & Unwin
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Long ago, the little Prince of Cloudburst was stolen from the seashore by a Water Sprite. Now, ten years later, the prince has found his way home. The King and Queen are planning the biggest party in their Kingdom's history to welcome him.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Kingdoms and Empires, Esther Mettlestone-Staranise is looking forward to another year at Katherine Valley Boarding School. But she arrives to find a number of strange and unsettling changes. For one, her new teacher is rumoured to be an Ogre. Two mysterious students have joined the school, and one of Esther's classmates is an undercover Spellbinder. Most disturbingly, the mountains surrounding the school - usually a delight of glaciers, teashops, lakes and Faeries - are now crowded with wicked Shadow Mages.
As secrets and dangers escalate, Esther must find the answers to several puzzles. Why is her teacher behaving so oddly? Which of Esther's classmates is the Spellbinder, and can they really protect the school from gathering hordes of Shadow Mages? Could the Stolen Prince of Cloudburst be connected?
How can Esther - who is not talented like her sisters, nor an adventurer like her cousin, but just Esther - save her family, her school and possibly her entire world?
The Stolen Prince of Cloudburst is the third book in Jaclyn Moriarty’s marvellous children’s fantasy adventure series, Kingdoms & Empires. If you’ve read the first two books, this next story has everything that you might expect: unique and whimsical writing, quirky storytelling by endearingly earnest children, and somewhat inconvenient and slightly alarming adventures.
After gushing rather a lot about Jaclyn Moriarty’s incredible writing and the amazing way she has of telling children’s stories in my reviews of the previous books (The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone and The Slightly Alarming Tale of the Whispering Wars) do not be surprised if I repeat myself in this review.
It must be mentioned how gorgeous the covers are, and that Kelly Canby’s amazing illustrations throughout each book elevate the reading experience.
Jaclyn Moriarty’s writing is incredible. She has a particular way of expressing words: whether adult, young adult, kids books or Instagram captions, that always evokes responses full of emotion. She imbues this in her Kingdoms & Empires narrators in a way that feels particularly authentic for their age.
What this series does is everything I think a kid’s book should do: it has a fun and enjoyable story, relatable character and fast paced plot that all interact with the incredible complexity of human nature. It is written in a way that respects kids' capacity to understand and deal with emotions and that is engaging and relatable for that age group.
One of the things I love about this series is that each book is a stand alone adventure. I think it’s best to read in order, but it is not at all necessary. Each has a complete adventure with a satisfying ending. It also gives a lot of scope for many more books, without the stress of not knowing how things will end up with the adventures you’re already invested in.
The Stolen Prince of Cloudburst follows Esther, the middle child of one of Bronte Mettlestone’s many aunts. As a middle child, Esther is somewhat ordinary and frequently unnoticed. Since she is often not noticed, she has developed a propensity for listening in to conversations that perhaps she ought not.
Twelve year old Esther is alarmed when she returns to boarding school with her two sisters to discover her two best friends have left the school, and there is a new teacher who may or may not be an ogre. Through various overheard discussions, it becomes clear to Esther that there is something strange and potentially dangerous going on across the kingdoms and empires.
This book is an intense and emotionally gripping read with a bunch of twists that kept me guessing. Even when I figured out certain aspects, there were a lot of surprises at the end. The cast of characters is excellent; my personal favourite was the school librarian (aside from Esther), but I also enjoyed the dynamic between Esther and her sisters.
I love the complexity of the story and character relationships in this series. Jaclyn does an incredible job of navigating the complexities of children’s lives: dealing with developing feelings and emotions, their relationships with each other and with the adults around them. In particular, the ways adults can let kids down and the power dynamic are explored really well. This is especially evident in The Stolen Prince of Cloudburst.
There is a storyline in The Stolen Prince of Cloudburst related to bullying, that was quite upsetting for me to read. However, in some ways I wonder if it was harder to read as an adult - I was so angry and upset that an adult would treat children this way. I actually think this was dealt with in a way that could be very empowering for children to read. For certain readers it possibly could be triggering, but it was written in a very age appropriate and careful way. I particularly loved how the resolution enabled Esther to stand up for herself and take control, without removing the responsibility of the adults around her to protect her.
Even though there were some heavy elements, ultimately the overall experience of reading this book is joyful. There is such delight and joy in the way Jaclyn writes about the world and such respect for kids. It’s full of imagination, humour and kindness.
I honestly think if I had to pick one series to read for the rest of my life it would be Kingdoms and Empires, and hope Jaclyn Moriarty continues sharing many, many, more adventures from this world. I highly recommend The Stolen Prince of Cloudburst to readers of all ages.
You should definitely check out all of Jaclyn's other work and follow her online via her website, Instagram and Twitter.