Book Review: The Chestnut King

Stephanie at Read in a Single Sitting turned me on to N.D. Wilson’s 100 Cupboards trilogy, and I finally finished the last book, The Chestnut King. This trilogy is quirky, emotional, scary, and exhilarating. Henry York, is a kid with a lot of spunk who grows up into a clever young man with a lot of integrity. His journey from 100 Cupboards, to Dandelion Fire, and ending in The Chestnut King has been a grand adventure, for him and for me.

In 100 Cupboards Henry discovers the wall in his attic/bedroom has been hiding secrets, 99 cupboards to magical lands secrets, to be exact. Then Henry discovers that he is originally from one of those magical lands and is being hunted by an evil queen, who imprisoned his biological father. So in Dandelion Fire Henry decides to run away from his adoptive parents into the cupboards. His cousin Henrietta follows him on his adventures both times. Meanwhile, Henrietta’s father, Uncle Frank, follows both them because he too is from the cupboards. The story lines converge and a battle is fought and won, but the war has just begun.

Niamine, the evil queen, is back in The Chestnut King, and it is up to Henry to find a way to save his Uncle Frank from capture and his Father from being harmed. Even though Henry has had many adventures, the grown-ups try to coddle him, so he strikes out on his own. Of course Henrietta follows. In 100 Cupboards Henry was splattered with the blood of the evil queen and now she has a link to him, physiologically and psychically. This complicates things for Henry. He decides his only course of action is to get the help of the faeries.

I really enjoyed reading this series, though I felt there was a disconnect from book one to book three. The story starts out with a boy exploring a series of magical cupboards and ends with a young man battling evil forces. I liked each of the books, but the trilogy is a little disjointed from itself. The Chestnut King is by far my favorite of the three. I love wild adventures, battles, and clever children. The Chestnut King has all three and more. The series is unexpectedly clever, witty, and engaging. Just be forewarned when starting 100 Cupboards, things do not go as expected. I said it before, and I will say it again. I thought I was going to get Indian in the Cupboard or The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and instead I got a Harry Potter book by C.S. Lewis. Not a bad thing, just unexpected.

I had some trouble with the rather overly put together ending of the book and the series. There is a saying we learned in law school, “Stop before asking the last question” or “Never ask the last question, just walk away.” I wish the book had ended before N.D. Wilson asked his last question, made his last statement. Not everything needs to end so neat and tidy. Especially not a magical book with cupboards, evil queens, and dandelion fire. But all in it, it is a delightful narrative, with an imaginative tale and excellent writing.