The Marvelous Misadventures Of Sebastian

by Lloyd Alexander

Paperback, 2000



Call number

PB Ale

Call number

PB Ale

Local notes

PB Ale





Puffin (2000), Paperback, 224 pages


When he loses his place as fourth fiddler in a noble household, Sebastian sets out into the world to seek his fortune.


National Book Award (Finalist — Children's Books — 1971)
Sequoyah Book Award (Nominee — Children's — 1973)
Mythopoeic Awards (Finalist — 1971)

Original publication date


Physical description

224 p.; 7.76 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member ncgraham
Lloyd Alexander was a favorite author of my childhood, and The Marvelous Adventures of Sebastian was the first novel of his I read. It was a joy to rediscover it after all these years. In hindsight I don't think it is one of his best books, but it is a gloriously fun romp.

Sebastian is the Fourth
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Fiddle in Baron Purn-Hessel's orchestra, but when Count Lobelieze, Royal Treasurer and First Minister of Finance—or, as Sebastian prefers to call him, the Purse—comes to visit, a disaster ensues. Sebastian's bow slips, making a tearing sound, and the rotund Purse thinks his breeches have ripped. Humiliated, he takes vengeance by demanding the Baron dismiss Sebastian, threatening to tell the Regent if he does not. So the young fiddler sets off to find a new place in the world, with his fiddle on his back and a few coins in his pocket. But life outside the Baron's castle is not as easy as he expected it to be; no only is the kingdom that falling apart under the Regent's tyrannous rule, but Sebastian's own distinctive mix of innocence, mischievousness, and (sometimes) common sense seems to get him into one scrape after another.

Alexander does not show himself to be a great world-builder in this book; Hamelin-Loring, despite its fancy double name, is very much your Stock Fantasy Kingdom, and the towns it contains follow suit. Interestingly, however, magic does not play a very big part in this world. The only example of it in the entire novel is the mysterious violin that Sebastian finds during his travels, which may end up being both his making and unmaking.

But it is the characters that make The Remarkable Misadventures of Sebastian so memorable. They fairly leap off the page in their vitality. It is hard not to love Sebastian at once, for though the Duke admits him to be a scamp, he has the pluck and courage not to kneel to the the ridiculous Purse and beg pardon for an offense he never intended: "Excellency ... I'll stand like a man and ask your pardon for my clumsiness. I'd not be such a fool as to offend your Excellency on purpose. Though indeed I'd be more than a fool and less than a man if I admitted something I never meant." Joining the lovable, handsome fiddler on his journeys are the runaway Princess Isabel, possessor of a great vocabulary and even greater problems, the mysterious and multi-talented Nicholas, and—not unusually—a cat named Presto. My only objection to the characterization is that it is not always consistent. As soon as Nicholas enters the scene, for instance, Sebastian's IQ seems to go several notches down, presumably to highlight's his elder comrade's worldly wisdom.

When I first read this all those years ago, my favorite scenes were those with the Traveling Circus, and indeed this is where Alexander does some of his best character development. Quicksilver and Madame Sophie provide moments of uproarious comedy but also have much to say that is relevant to themes of the novel; they fervently believe that there is some value to magic and moonshine, which is really the material of Alexander's plot. Now, however, I am also most impressed by the ending. The climax has a subtlety and intensity I wasn't able to understand as a child, and the denouement is both open-ended and upbeat.

Recommended to all those who are truly young in heart.
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½ (47 ratings; 3.5)
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