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Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard: 10/04/16

Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard by Jonathan Auxier

Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard by Jonathan Auxier is a stand alone meta-fantasy that's billed as a sequel to Peter Nimble. If anything, it's more of a special guest appearance by Peter as this book is in no way his story, even if Auxier attempts sometimes to make it so.

Sophie Quire lives with her father in their bookshop. She has taken over for her mother as the store's book mender. She lives in a village where yearly there's a bonfire to burn the ridiculous things that the town magistrate has decided are keeping the townsfolk back. This year he's settled on fiction — story books.

On the eve of the bonfire, Sophie's approached by Peter and Sir Tode about repairing an old book. The blurb has us believe that the book is told from Peter's point of view — that this is his adventure. It isn't. The majority of the scenes including the reintroduction of him and Sir Tode is done from Sophie's point of view.

Interestingly, Peter doesn't come off as sympathetic or noble or tragic as he did in his book. He's petty, moody, selfish, and all around annoying. As a master thief, though, he is a means to and end for Sophie to complete her quest — namely rescuing the Book of Who (the book Peter gave her) and the other three: What, Where and Why. She basically tolerates him to get to her goal.

Sophie Quire we find out pretty quickly is a storyguard. She is a keeper of the Book of Who, one of a four volume encyclopedia that updates in real time. Being one gives her the ability to interact with books in a way similar to fans of Die unendliche Geschichte (The Neverending Story) by Michael Ende. If Sophie fails at her quest, her world, namely the fictional one imagined by Auxier, will be obliterated in the pyre.

Sophie's adventures though aren't entirely through a reimagined Fantasia. There are nods as well to Narnia (of the earliest ones in publication order, rather than the abysmal Revelations inspired ending), to the Disc (specifically The Light Fantastic), and Howl's Moving Castle (the film more so than the novel).

For the most part I enjoyed following along with Sophie. Near the end though her adventures get interrupted by chapters with the villains or with chapters focusing on Peter. One chapter in particular annoyed me to no end as it's from Peter's point of view during one of the last big epic battles where everything is at stake. Instead on focusing on how good Sophie is at outwitting her opponents and how she uses brains over brawn, we're privy to lengthy scenes where Peter is doubting himself and needs to be cheered along. Apparently, just like Tinkerbell, Peter is only a good thief if we truly believe in him. BARF.

So I'm taking one star off of an otherwise delightful read because of Peter. He's just there to sell the book. He's there because the men involved in this creation didn't think a fantasy novel could sell with a girl as the hero. Peter is irrelevant and distracting. Anyone could have delivered the book to Sophie to get the plot rolling. Frankly, given the book's magical nature, it could have delivered itself to her.

Four stars

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