*The Carver and the Queen by Emma Fox

An adventurous fairy tale set in Imperial Russia, perfect for teens who enjoy books like The Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis.

*The Carver and the Queen by Emma Fox. Owl’s Nest Publishers, 2023. 304 pages.

Reading Level: Teen/YA, Ages 12 and up

Recommended For: Ages 12 and up

Petr is doomed to serfdom. All he wants to do is learn to carve malachite, the striking green mineral found in the Ural Mountains. Lena appears doomed to a terrible marriage, arranged on her behalf because her family is too poor to secure something better for her. She’d rather continue doing chores for old Yermolay, the stone cutter, especially when Petr begins to apprentice to him. And soon, Petr notices Lena, too. But love between two serfs who are bound to others is doomed from the start. How can Petr support Lena while he’s a lowly apprentice? And how can Lena get out of a pre-arranged marriage that’s supposed to benefit her own destitute family?

Like all young lovers through literature, Petr and Lena are determined to find a way. Together, the two learn the art of malachite carving from old Yermolay, watching and imitating his expert technique and biding their time until Petr can perhaps buy Lena’s freedom. But their efforts seem doomed from the start. When Malachinitsa appears to Petr on the mountainside one day, promising him his heart’s desire, he considers: learning to carve malachite like the old masters would enable him to earn enough money to support Lena! Why not follow Malachinitsa? What does he have to lose?

Were it not for Lena, Petr would have been trapped by Malachinitsa forever in her kingdom of lies and enchantment. Lena, though, reminds Petr of what is true. She gives him a reason to fight against the bewitchment Malachinitsa offers: fake food, false hope, a twisting of good desires into selfish ones. The journey is a hard one, but together, Lena and Petr support one another and persevere.

The Carver and the Queen Reminds Me Of…

I couldn’t help but draw parallels to The Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis as I was reading The Carver and the Queen. The stories are different, but some striking similarities mark the two: a young man who gives into the temptations of an evil queen, only to find himself trapped under ground, at the mercy of the witch. A young girl who holds to the truth ends up rescuing the entrapped boy. In The Silver Chair, of course, the young girl (and her friend Eustace and the marshwiggle Puddleglum) don’t know Prince Rillian, the bewitched young man. In The Carver and the Queen, Lena is determined to rescue her one true love. But both stories show the dangerous entrapment of sin; sin always promises to fulfill our hearts’ desires. That fulfillment, ultimately, enslaves us to our desires. The process of resisting temptation, of putting off sin, is painful, desperate, and often fraught with peril.

Fox creates a convincing world in the Ural Mountains of Imperial Russia complete with villainous lords and desperate, poor serfs. She peoples the community with many distinct characters. Meeting the characters and learning about their world makes for a slower start but a very satisfying conclusion. Readers who enjoy intricate, literary fairy tales that offer plentiful opportunities to ponder what really matters will delight in this book. It’s an easy leap from Malachinitsa’s wiles to the nature of sin and the devil; similarly, Lena’s devotion to what is true reminds us that we should be similarly devoted to the Truth in order to recognize (and fight against) the lies.


Language: I noted one “d—,” spoken by a villain.

Sexuality: Petr and Lena are in love! Toward the end of the book, there are some touching scenes, including a kiss.

Overall Rating: 4.75 out of 5

Literary/Artistic Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Worldview Rating: 5 out of 5

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Recommended Reading at Redeemed Reader

Book Review: The Arrow and the Crown by Emma Fox (a great read alike if you like the sound of The Carver and the Queen!)

Resource: Here Be Dragons: A Mega Sci-Fi and Fantasy Book List

A Reflection: Why Walt Disney’s Original Animated Sleeping Beauty Is the Best Cinematic Fairy Tale Adaptation

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