HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Lost Prince of Samavia
Author: Frances Hodgson Burnett
Illustrator: Michael Whittlesea
Publisher: Puffin Books, republished 1971
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 8-16 and up
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Burnett, Frances Hodgson. The Lost Prince of Samavia (originally published in 1915; republished in 1971 by Puffin Books, a division of Penguin Books, 625 Madison Ave., New York City, NY 10022). Marco Loristan, twelve years old, has just moved to shabby quarters at No. 7 Philibert Place in London, England, with his father, Stefan Loristan, and their manservant Lazarus. The three have lived in many places, including Moscow, Paris, Munich, and Vienna, because they are refugees from Samavia (a fictitious eastern European country). Some 500 years before, the last legitimate king of Samavia was killed, and his heir, Prince Ivor Fedorovitch, mysteriously disappeared. The “Lost Prince” of Samavia had become a legend over time, and as the country experienced civil war between the Maranovitch and Iarovitch factions, general unrest, bloody revolutions, poverty, and political instability, many were hoping that Ivor’s descendent could be found and made king. Marco’s father is a Samavian patriot working in exile to overthrow the cruel dictatorship in the kingdom of Samavia and restore their home country to its former peaceful glory.
In London, Marco meets “The Rat”, a crippled, hunchback street urchin who is fascinated with all things military and has a brilliant mind in his weak body. The two soon become friends, and together invent “The Game” where they make up schemes to form a Secret Party all across Europe that works behind the scenes to find the Lost Prince and re-establish peace and prosperity for Samavia. When the Rat’s father dies, he ends up living with the Loristans. Then the Game turns into reality, and the two boys embark on an adventurous trip throughout Europe, from big cities like Paris, Munich and Vienna, to tiny mountain hamlets, even to Samavia itself, as “Bearers of the Sign” to tell certain people that “The Lamp is lighted.” Along the way they have to deal with spies and other dangers, and when they finally get back home, Stephan is gone. Is there really a “Lost Prince”? If so, who and where is he? And what will happen to Marco and the Rat?
Any boy (or girl, for that matter) who is a good reader and likes stories of mystery, suspense, adventure, and international intrigue, will enjoy this book. It moves a bit slowly at first and there is a good deal of geographical description, but it picks up and becomes more exciting as the boys travel across Europe giving the secret sign. What I really like about the characterization is the nobility—not physical nobility as in kings and princes, but moral nobility as in Marco’s devotion to duty, loyalty to friends, and perseverance, as well as similar qualities shown by the Rat. Author Frances Hodgson Burnett is best known for The Little Princess, The Secret Garden, and Little Lord Fauntleroy, but I think that The Lost Prince of Samavia is better—in fact, one of the best novels that I have ever read. Most editions sold today are lightly abridged versions marketed under the title The Lost Prince. Either way, it is classic tale of kindness, courage, patriotism, and family love.