Pia and Enzio are orphans living under a demanding master. Nearby in the castle the King, Queen, and their three rather spoiled children live in luxury. Both worlds are disrupted when a thief escapes from the castle with ….something. But what did he steal? No one seems to know.
This gentle story resembles a fairy tale in some of its elements: the royal family, the worthy orphans, the wise elders, and mysterious secrets. But there are also elements of satire as well: the royal family is intent of seeming wise and thus hire professional hermits, the youngest prince is interested only in danger and violence (though his fantasies are the closest the book comes to either), and the princess wants to do something, but can’t figure out what.
The pace is somewhat slow. Really, there isn’t a lot that happens, plotwise. Instead, the book is more concerned with looking at each character and his/her foibles and thought process. For all that, the character growth by the end of the story is not terribly noticeable. The royal children have changed a bit, but they are still fundamentally selfish and self-absorbed – they’ve merely changed the focus of that absorption.
Still, this book is entertaining, and will be appreciated by children who enjoy medieval settings, gentle mysteries, or plucky orphans.