The influence of J K Rowling on Theresa Saari is not immediately evident to the untrained eye, but it is
there. Imogene of the Pacific Kingdom takes the basic ingredients of a Harry Potter novel and stirs them around a bit,
with the heroine being abandoned by her parents and made to live with an unsympathetic relative until she comes of age, is
able to make use of her unusual powers, and is taken by a mysterious mentor to her rightful home. This is just about where
the resemblance ends. Besides, the themes of separation from parents and a special destiny are traditional ones in children’s
literature: Peter Pan, the Famous Five, the Pevensey children in C S Lewis’s Narnia books, all of them start off in
Ms Saari describes Imogene of the Pacific Kingdom as being dedicated to children of all ages, from
six to 106, but it is unquestionably a story primarily intended for the former rather than the latter. It succeeds on several
levels – but fails on others. The flaws are mostly stylistic. Young readers are unlikely to notice the errors in grammar
and punctuation, and the misuse of "lay" as an intransitive verb is by now habitual in the UK as well as in North America,
so there is no point griping about it. There are, however, three things noticeably lacking in the author’s style of
The first is economy. Detail is a fine thing, but many sentences appear padded out with excess verbiage,
and it often takes a whole paragraph to convey what could have been said in a single line.
"Finally they walked enough and rounded many bends, and the Royal Family and their friend made it to the
This is a common failing among new writers, and one that can be easily conquered. The other two missing elements
are humour and metaphor; these are more serious weaknesses, especially in a children’s author, and will need to have
attention given to them if this is to be the first in a successful series.
On the whole, the book is short on comic moments. The raw material is there, particularly in the character
of Sampson, the butler, who in his present form is little more than a good-humoured Lurch but has the potential to develop.
The lack of colour in Ms Saari’s style is puzzling, as this is one of the areas where budding writers tend to go over
the top. Such similes as occur here are rather uninspiring:
"The coffee table … was the size of a small dining room table…"
"it was a silk robe; shiny as can be…"
When Imogene’s parents eventually call for her, there is plenty of scope for the imagination. The questions
about her new lifestyle come thick and fast, and are answered with considerable ingenuity. A lot of effort and skill has gone
into creating this magical alternative world where young readers can immerse themselves. Needless to say, Imogene’s
problems are not over, for here comes a villain to threaten her idyllic future, and she has to go back to square one before
she can return to fulfil her destiny. This is the material of which best-sellers are made.
One thing I particularly like about the book is the quirky cover, which somehow adds to the story’s
air of mystery. It would have been easy to produce an image of blue sea, blue sky, and a fairytale princess. Far better to
let the reader’s own imagination do the work.