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Ophelia is born in the year 1585 in the village of Elsinore. Her mother dies giving birth, and her father is distant and aloof, oftentimes absent from their home for days while seeking employment in the king's court. So Ophelia's older brother becomes her playmate and protector. They swim in the river, explore in the forest and run wild in the streets with other children. Their father does hire a tutor for Ophelia's brother, and though girls at this time usually are not educated, he gives his permission for Ophelia to learn as well, just to keep her out of trouble.

But life changes drastically when Ophelia turns eight. Her father finally gets a job working for King Hamlet, and the three of them move to Elsinore Castle.

Living at the Castle is so very different from their old life in the village. The castle is dark and drafty, yet filled with beautiful furniture and rugs, delicious food and drink, and people dressed in fancy clothes. Ophelia and her brother soon meet the king and queen at a banquet, along with their son, Prince Hamlet. Being around the same age, Ophelia's brother and the likable prince often engage in wrestling, archery and sword dueling. Hamlet even takes the time to tease starry-eyed Ophelia.

As Ophelia gets a little older, the queen takes notice and invites Ophelia to join her ladies-in-waiting. There Ophelia finally receives a bit of female guidance and learns to be a "proper lady." Ophelia could do without the endless hours of sewing, but she loves having access to books. In fact, when the queen finds out how well educated Ophelia is, she becomes one of the queen's favorites, spending hours reading aloud and sharing discussions with the queen.

The queen isn't the only one who notices Ophelia getting older; Prince Hamlet has his eye on her as well. But because she never would be accepted as a suitable match, Hamlet and Ophelia must keep their love a secret. With the help of Hamlet's trusted friend, Horatio, they dress as poor peasants and meet away from the castle in the orchards, gardens and an abandoned cottage. They soon decide to defy traditions and secretly elope.

But before they can gather the courage to announce their elopement, the king is murdered! Overcome with anger and grief, Hamlet becomes totally obsessed with discovering his father's killer and forgets his new bride. Ophelia falls into deep despair. But when the murderer begins to suspect that he or she may be exposed, Ophelia decides that her existence is worth saving and must escape for her very life.

Lisa Klein has done an incredible job with OPHELIA. She has taken one of Shakespeare's famous plays and written a tale that is a little more user friendly in today's world. Placing the story in young Ophelia's point of view will attract the female readers, especially when joining Ophelia in declaring a woman's life in the 1600s to be completely and unfairly ruled by men. Add castles, adventure, romance, murder and fleeing for one's life, and you have an amazing story.

Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman on October 18, 2011

by Lisa Klein

  • Publication Date: October 31, 2006
  • Genres: Fiction, Romance
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
  • ISBN-10: 1582348014
  • ISBN-13: 9781582348018