The Emerald Crown (by Violet Needham)

After my mother died a couple of years ago, I acquired her collection of Violet Needham novels. They weren’t books I had read, on the whole, but they were some of her favourites as a teenager. She collected them from charity shops and when re-published, and had quite an eclectic selection. Some are historical fiction, some were contemporary at the time when they were written.

‘The Emerald Crown’, which I have in a 1970 hardback edition, was first published in 1940, and as far as I can tell was meant to be set in around that period. However, the location is a fictitious central European country called Flavonia, which has been without its rightful monarch for several decades.

Enter Alexander, a fourteen-year-old boy who has recently been orphaned, and who has come to live with his guardian, Count Trollac. Most of the story is seen through the eyes of the count’s 12-year-old daughter Christine, who is generally known as Pixie. She’s a loyal and determined girl, and quickly spots that there’s something strange about the way people react to Alexander. Could he be the long-lost heir to the throne…?

A somewhat predictable story-line is enlivened by the search for the mysterious missing Emerald Crown of the title. Legend says that the rightful King will only appear when the Emerald Crown is found; moreover, it can only be found by such a king. So the reigning monarch isn’t too worried that he might be usurped, even though most of the people would love to see the return of their ‘real’ King.

It’s an adventure story that I think would appeal to either boys or girls of around nine or ten and upwards, if they can manage the somewhat dated style and enjoy stories with some excitement and tension but nothing too serious. I enjoyed it very much, and once again am wondering why I didn’t read some of Violet Needham’s books when I was younger.

I liked Pixie very much; perhaps today’s sophisticated 12-year-olds wouldn’t recognise her as a contemporary, as she seems younger in many ways. On the other hand, her understanding of politics and world events is rather beyond her age, as is her courage and independence. Alexander, too, is a believable character, struggling with grief at the loss of his mother, homesickness, and a deep tension as he has to come to terms with his destiny.

Having said that, the style is a bit awkward in places, and some of the minor characters are very caricatured. That doesn’t matter too much in a children’s book, but it might be offputting to parents wanting to read it aloud to those who aren’t yet reading fluently for themselves.

Review by copyright 2015 Sue's Book Reviews


sparrow girl said...

I enjoyed reading the review of this book..right now I'm reading aloud another Needham book, The Horn of Merlyns, to my daughter, and we're loving the characters, setting and story.

I would like to follow your reviews..is there a way to get your new posts by email? I couldn't find a place on your blog to do that...

Thanks for the reviews you put up here..I see we have some of the same favorite authors!

Sue F said...

Thanks for the comments! I can't seem to get to your blogger profile, so am hoping you see this reply. I've now added a 'follow by email' link in the sidebar though I've no idea if it works... you can also use feed readers like The Old Reader or Feedly to follow blogs, which is what I usually do.

sparrow girl said...

Thanks for adding that "follow by email" link..I will subscribe that way, and I won't miss any new reviews! I just found your site and am enjoying reading through some reviews in your archives..
I don't know why my blogger profile is not coming up correctly..I wasn't able to 'find' it either! Anyway, this is a link to my blog: underthewaterfallofgrace.blogspot.com I am a wife and mom living in the Southern USA, nice to meet you here online, Sue!