For her second novel, Needham returned to the world of the Empire and Flavonia, and that stalwart of children’s literature – the long lost monarch plot. It’s another enjoyable romp of a story, with its youthful protagonists firmly in the driving seat no matter how much their deluded elders attempt to protect them. I always liked this one as a child, although I relied on frequent borrowings from the library as my mother hadn’t owned a copy. The book is very dated now, but is an interesting example of its genre.
Flavonia has been without its rightful king for nearly a hundred years. The current incumbent of the throne is a decadent and hated individual and, of course, the descendent of a usurper who overthrew the rightful king. The people of Flavonia writhe under the tyrant’s yoke and long for the day when the rumoured great grandson of the deposed king will return to take up his throne.
Meanwhile at Trollsgarde in the mountainous province of Trollac, which I always thought bore more than a passing resemblance to Transylvania, a little girl nicknamed Pixie prepares for an unwelcome Christmas visitor. She is the beloved daughter of the governor of the province, so no Cinderella she. The visitor she awaits is a boy named Alexander, who has been living in penury at Eton in England despite being a true Flavonian. She is not told who this boy is or why her father is apparently paying his school fees (scrub your minds out gentle readers) but is sufficiently sharp-eyed to notice his strong resemblance to a portrait of one of Flavonia’s kings – the rightful, good looking ones, not the mealy mouthed foxy-faced usurpers.
Needham’s youthful readers would have been thoroughly reassured by the entirely English way these Flavonian people behaved. Alexander, of course, would far rather play cricket for England than take up his rightful crown. Any reader who had failed to work out who he was by page 4 deserved not to finish the book. The real story is not who Alexander is, but how, together with Pixie he pieces together the evidence he needs to secure his throne. A suitably thrilling climax ends the book in a satisfactory manner.
This is still in print and was republished as recently as last year.