The Duff meets Dungeons & Dragons. Clueless meets Conan. Princess Diaries meets Percy Jackson. Sword and sorcery meets high school romance. Such are the appropriate descriptors for R. Litfin’s The Lost Noble, the first book in her Chronicles of Royal High series which combines elements of high fantasy with young adult sentiments.
The titular lost noble is Adella Everheart, the daughter of Rose and Orrick, a blacksmith who is trying to get over a broken heart after being dumped and publicly humiliated by Prince Brogan. Her world is turned upside down when Queen Cassandra of Adamaris arrives; Orrick is her son that she disowned because he fell in love with the peasant girl Rose. Cassandra is need of an heir to take over the throne of Adamaris, and she asks for Adella to assume the role.
And thus, Adella is swept up into the world of the royals and enrolls at Royal High, the institution that educates those of royalty to enter the adult world of ruling their kingdoms. A fish out of water, the peasant princess Adella is caught up in media attention, and her commoner background clashes with those of privilege. She quickly befriends students Vivian (whom she shares a room with), Katherine, Blake, and Jason and alchemy professor Bracke, while making enemies of Diamara, headmistress Von Derdenmyer and Professor Landin. There is, of course, the Brogan situation, as he too is enrolled at Royal High, causing Adella to sway between mixed emotions.
Adella’s peasant background provides her with a strong work ethic that the other students at Royal High seem to lack, as emphasis is placed on fashionable attire and making alliances with each other. An odd one out, Adella is able to win other students over, slowly at first by excelling in Bracke’s alchemy class, but in greater numbers later by participating in the school’s combat team; however, there are greater things going on just at the periphery, with rumored appearances of dragons, as well as a dark lord whose nefarious plans bookend The Lost Noble.
The Lost Noble is an incredibly fun read, with Litfin able to combine modern young adult sensibilities with high fantasy. For example, the characters speak in a common dialect, normal for modern-day teenagers. Yet, it doesn’t feel out of place or anachronistic, as the world in Chronicles of Royal High is peppered with contemporary references; characters use small pocket crystal balls as the proxy for mobile phones, giant mirrors act as televisions, and so on. It’s a strange mix of globalization and feudalism that work for the narrative. In fact, such a configuration invites readers to question bigger themes The Lost Noble only brushes on. For example, while The Lost Noble is firmly rooted in young adult romance and fantasy, with a take on class dynamics: the lower, peasant class (Adella) and the high class (everyone else at Royal High). It’s the equivalent of the cliquish popular rich girls in high school versus the unpopular kids, found in such films like Pretty in Pink. Yet, Adella herself comes from a family of privilege; she’s not part of the poor and destitute class after all. When it comes time for her to rule, will she be able to speak and identify with everyone? Or will it be restricted to her own privileges? Or perhaps she will give into the absolute rule that Royal High faculty advocate? What’s a teenage girl who has been thrust suddenly from one world into the next to do?
If there is a fault to found in The Lost Noble, it’s the inconstant descriptors and adjective usage. Litfin mostly excels at describing her world, with excellent flourishes such as “The Autumn Tide’s dawn was brisk and misty, and the moon was beginning to disappear over the deep amethyst mountains on the horizon. The cloudy sky was periwinkle laced with hints of scarlet and amber.” This is both poetic and lovely and adds to the fantasy backdrop; however, Litfin sometimes errs on the side of more is more which causes instances of adjective over usage, such as her the description of Adella’s first meal at Royal High: “There was a bright tangy salad bursting with fresh garden fare, appetizers swimming in delicate juices and meaty bits, crispy roasted vegetables, and of course, the main dish, steaming hot, wrapped in bacon, topped with lemon slices and garnish.” While the meal is drowning in adjectives, a critical piece was forgotten: What exactly was the main dish Adella ate?
Unbalanced adjectives aside, The Lost Noble’s story is concrete. Adella is a likable character, coping with teenage drama that we’ve all encountered in our youth. She’s earnest and resourceful, and readers will root for her success as she parlays her way through high school politics, which, of course, will prepare her for real-world politics when she eventually takes the throne. The fantasy world of The Lost Noble is rife with possibilities, magic, and mystical creatures that were only scratched upon. With book two, The Chronicles of Royal High: Dragon’s Wrath, slated to be released this autumn, it will be exciting to see where Adella’s adventures take her next.
Creative Team: R. Litfin (writer)
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