I am a fan of KB Hoyle’s work. I have read everything she has written (at least the book-length work). I read or re-read eight of her books last year. I trust her to write books that I am going to enjoy.
Almost two months ago, she announced a surprise book. Around two years ago, she cofounded a small publishing house to focus on middle-grade books. I guess being a publisher and an author, you can quietly release a book without any advance notice if you want to. Because it was a surprise and I have been busy, it has taken me almost two months to read it.
I don’t know how to write about The Queen of Ebenezer. In the description, The Queen of Ebenezer is compared to Piranesi, which is an accurate comparison. In both books, the main character does not know what is going on, so the reader is also lost because they rely on the main character’s perspective. I have no issues with that style of book, but it makes it hard to write about because this is a book that spoilers will spoil.
There are two subtle things I want to note that are precisely what I like about Hoyle’s writing. Plots are always well done with Hoyle; they are tight, there is always movement, and the plots are going somewhere. A good middle-grade or YA book must go somewhere to keep the reader engaged. The title uses a somewhat obscure word Ebenezer to name the land where Beatrice finds herself. Ebenezer is derived from Hebrew, and it is probably unknown among modern readers that are not Jewish or Christian. An Ebenezer is a mark of memory, especially a mark of divine help that you want to remember. In a book where the main character starts without a memory, the land of Ebenezer is a clue.
The second subtle nod is the name Beatrice as the main character. Beatrice is the name of the real woman to whom Dante dedicated the Divine Comedy to; and is the name of the fictional guide in the Paradiso portion of the poem. As a guide, she is showing the character of Dante in the poem divine grace as she shows him paradise or heaven. Most middle-grade or young adult readers will miss these two references, but Hoyle writes with depth that adult readers will find enticing. I have re-read most of Hoyles’ books and always notice more in the books the second or third time.
I am only going to hint at the story. Beatrice awakens on an island and does not understand what is going on. It is a magical world that she knows is magical. But she does not remember a life previous to where she is now. But because she knows that the world is different from her expectations, she assumes she has lived elsewhere. Time doesn’t work normally. And the boy she finds eventually does not seem to know how strange Ebenezer is. Beatrice has a role; when danger comes, she has to figure out what that role is.
The Queen of Ebenezer is a novella-length book that is relatively standard for the intended age range. I read it in three short sessions before bed. As always, I am looking forward to reading more by Hoyle. My only real complaint is that it wasn’t a bit longer.