The Silver Crown (Aladdin Fantasy)

by Robert C. O'Brien

Paperback, 2001



Local notes





Aladdin (2001), 272 pages


Soon after waking up on her tenth birthday to find a silver crown on her pillow, Ellen's house burns down, her parents disappear, and she is launched on an adventure involving a trek through the woods, a castle full of brainwashed captives, and the powerful Hieronymus Machine which wants her crown.


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

272 p.; 5.13 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member ncgraham
Robert C. O’Brien’s The Silver Crown opens with one of the most charming first sentences I have ever encountered:

She had known all along that she was a queen, and now the crown proved it.

Things do not remain lighthearted for long, however. Having found the silver crown on her pillow on the
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morning of her tenth birthday, Ellen wanders out to a nearby park in order to hold court with her imaginary subjects. When she returns, she finds that her house has burned down. No one escaped, the authorities say. Ellen, homeless and friendless, resolves to hitchhike all the way to Lexington, Kentucky, where her beautiful Aunt Sarah lives.

This is not as easy as it sounds, however, for the crown seems to have magical properties, and a band of men in dark suits and green hoods are looking for it—and, by extension, Ellen. She finds danger at every turn. But she also finds help in the form of some new friends, including the mysterious Mrs. Fitzpatrick, a kindly woodcarver named (predictably) Mr. Carver, and the boy Otto, who accompanies her on her journey. But even with his assistance, will Ellen be able to reach Aunt Sarah? And what will be the fate of the silver crown?

One of the blurbs on the back cover calls the book “reminiscent of The Lord of the Rings,” but it is Tolkienesque only to the extent that any epic journey with unlikely heroes is Tolkienesque. Based on the flavor of the opening chapter, I thought that Tolkien’s colleague C. S. Lewis would make for a better comparison, but that isn’t quite right, either. While reading I was reminded more of George MacDonald (Mrs. Fitzpatrick especially is right out of a MacDonald fairy tale, believe me), Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising (due mostly to the dark, almost apocalyptic tone, and the way in which both stories seem to take place almost but not quite in the real world), and even Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time (because … well, I won’t give too much away here).

For the most part, I enjoyed the novel. The middle section, detailing Ellen and Otto’s hike across the countryside was especially exciting, and the strange men made for wonderfully menacing villains. There were times during this part of the book where I found myself biting my fingernails, not something I normally do. And the characters are nicely developed. Otto is particularly complex, and a welcome change from the annoyingly perfect children that populate a lot of fantasy fiction.

Unfortunately, however, I have to agree with a review I read, which said that the last third of the book—starting from the point when Ellen enters the castles—feels like a completely different book. Looking back, I can see how O’Brien had been setting up for this conclusion throughout, but it was still too big a shift in tone for me. And even though Ellen finds herself battling against world domination, the threat didn’t feel very real. Indeed, the concept of training children to do evil—just for the sake of doing evil—seems rather silly in this context. And neither of the two denouements provided is particularly satisfying: one is little more than an info-dump, while the other, if anything, leaves too much unexplained.

I am glad I read this, but I don’t think I’ll ever read it again. And that makes me sad, because the book had so much potential, and would have been truly great if it hadn’t floundered near the end.
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LibraryThing member orangejulia
The book begins with Ellen receiving a silver crown in the mail on her birthday. The next thing she knows, her house has burned down, her family is missing and people are willing to engage in mayhem and murder to find her. Ellen decides she needs to visit an aunt and sets out on foot to find her.
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She eventually meets up with a somewhat mysterious young boy and they attempt to solve the mystery of the crown and get Ellen to safety. This book was written in 1969 and at times it really shows. For example, that Ellen wears pants briefly and gets messy is considered striking within the book. However, in the end the book is driven by Ellen's determination and will.
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LibraryThing member pandoragreen
This was the first chapter book I read as a child. It made a deep impression upon me. Now I finally own a copy and I am so looking forward to re-reading this as an adult.
Edit: Having now had the chance to re-read this I can say it is a very well written children's story and I truly enjoyed
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revisitng it. I can't recommend it highly enough for kids. However, I have doubts as to whether someone approaching this book for the first time as an adult would enjoy it.
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LibraryThing member tuffstuff08
I loved this book when I was younger. It was very intense and had an original plot! Very good.
LibraryThing member dixonm
Readers of this book should be aware that the British and American editions end completely differently. (SPOILERS FOLLOW....) In the British edition, the bad guys really kill people. In the American edition, everyone who's been believed dead is found safe and sound at the end, making the story
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somewhat nonsensical in retrospect. In 1988 Aladdin Paperbacks printed an edition with two last chapters, one of each version -- but, unfortunately, the changes in the ending cover two chapters, not one, so that only made the British last chapter appear to make less sense than the American last chapter. The British edition of the story is good. The bowlderized American edition is, at best, really weird.
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LibraryThing member SusannahPK_83
I have loved this book since I was a small child. I reread it many times growing up and it really struck a chord and captivated me.
The eerieness of the writing and the language that O'Brien uses to describe action and detail is simple but at the same time, riveting.
The Hieronymus cult story is
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fascinating and sinister and I still associate many things I see or hear with this book.
I have always thought this would make a great movie- I really wish they would consider it.
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LibraryThing member RachelMeehan
This is one of my favourite books and one I have reread many times. As a child I was completely captivated by it. It is a great chase story and it is dark and sinister. From the first few frightening pages to the last it is a real page turner.

The mysterious man who pursues Ellen across the United
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states is a troubling character and the introduction of Otto who joins her in her adventure is just perfect.

I have purchased this for the children of friends over the years and all have loved it.
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LibraryThing member Nialle
A masterfully subtle question-creating book for ages 8-ish and up: not a mere quest, not merely kids and magic, not merely a chase, not merely villains, but a question asked in many ways: What do you do when someone who means well sets off a chain of events that can cause harm? - What do you do
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when that person really, really means well but causes real, terrible harm, or could have done? Whether it's the secret of the black crown (no spoiling!) or the question of what to do with Otto's road sign vandalism, how far to trust strangers or how far to trust an organization, this book is the kind I love best in all children's fiction: one that plants the seed of a question to be answered over and over in adulthood, with more wisdom for having read this book.

CAVEAT: MAKE SURE YOU READ THE BRITISH EDITION. It has a different ending, and frankly, an infinitely better one. The American one explains everything and is tedious and out-of-character.
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LibraryThing member CarmenMilligan
This was a fun, well-written book. Specifically for the younger reader, the book is a page-turner with lots of action and rich characters.

The protagonist, Ellen, finds a fast friend in Otto, as she sets out on an adventure that may or may not end up with her being the queen of ... well,
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Very entertaining, and a book this size and this pleasant to read is sure to encourage tentative readers to read more.

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LibraryThing member AltheaAnn
Kids/YA fantasy from the author of the famous Mrs. Frisby & the Rats of Nimh. I thought I'd never read this before, but at chapter 21, it suddenly came rushing back to me... The first half of the book is taken up by Our Young and Suddenly-Orphaned Heroine striking out on her own and fleeing the
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mysterious bad-guys, and I guess that wasn't terribly memorable to me as a child... but when the spooky evil thought-controlling reform-school comes into the picture - that, I guess, I found memorable.
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½ (119 ratings; 3.9)
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