The Chestnut King
This fantasy story by N.D. Wilson is the third book in the " 100 Cupboards" series published by Random House Children's Books, a division of Random House Inc.
The Chestnut King is written for kids ages 9 to 12 years. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
When 12-year-old Henry York went to stay with his cousins in Henry, Kan., he never imagined the trips he'd be taking. As the trilogy began, Henry found 99 cupboards hidden behind his bedroom wall. Each led to a different world. He inadvertently released an imprisoned witch-queen named Nimiane, who is determined to rule the cupboard worlds. Henry gained magical powers, and he used them to fight off Nimiane's minions. He was reunited with his birth parents, people he'd never known, and went to live with them in Badon Hill — a world filled with fairies and wizards.
In The Chestnut King, Henry's Aunt Dotty, Uncle Frank and cousins from Kansas now live in Badon Hill, as well. Nimiane continues to stalk Henry. She wants his blood, as it will increase her power. The scar she previously inflicted on his face continues to grow and rot. Henry's father, Mordecai, fears the wound will kill Henry unless they can vanquish the undying witch-queen soon.
Soldiers sent by the emperor of this world demand that Mordecai come with them across the sea. The emperor wants Mordecai to answer to charges that his family helped free Nimiane. Mordecai is more concerned about destroying the witch-queen and saving his son than his defense. He says he will respond to the emperor once he has completed his mission. He leaves for Endor, where Nimiane resides.
In response to Mordecai's disobedience to the emperor, the soldiers capture his family, including Uncle Frank, Henry's mom and his cousins. Then they set fire to the family's house, leaving Henry's cousin Henrietta and grandmother inside. Henry helps his grandmother and Henrietta escape through a cupboard portal that takes them back to Kansas. There, they enlist the help of Henry's baseball buddy, Zeke. Leaving Henry's grandmother with Zeke's mom, the three children travel through the cupboard leading to Endor.
The kids find themselves in a crypt with Nimiane's relative, a shape-shifting creature called Nimroth (or Blackstar). Nimiane has 10 henchmen, whom she controls with her mind. They're called fingerlings because they have fingers attached to the back of their heads. Coradin, the lead fingerling, follows Henry on his journeys through various worlds. Coradin and the fingerlings pursue the children through the underground tombs of Endor until Henry helps Zeke and Henrietta return to the attic in Kansas. Henry returns to Endor, finds his father and Uncle Caleb, gathers old manuscripts that may help them find the witch-queen's secrets and transports the papers back to Kansas.
Back in Badon Hill, Fat Frank — an incompetent fairy who has actually been stripped of his fairyhood — rescues three of the children in Henry's family. A group of fairies locates Frank and takes him and the children to the Chestnut King so Frank can answer for his un-fairylike conduct. Meanwhile, Uncle Frank and the other captured family members find themselves on a rough and unpleasant sea voyage.
Henry finds entry into the fairy world, where he seeks the help of the Chestnut King. The king makes a bargain with him: He will help Henry save his family and vanquish the witch-queen if Henry will take over as Chestnut King. Feeling cornered, Henry agrees. Henry is reunited with the family members that were with Fat Frank. Coradin and the witch-queen's other henchmen capture Uncle Frank's group, forcing Henry to confront Nimiane in her throne room. Henry disables the witch-queen just before she would have destroyed Henry and his loved ones. Instead of becoming the king himself, Henry makes Fat Frank the new Chestnut King.
When Uncle Frank gets the upper hand against a cruel ship's captain, he tells the man to haggle with God for mercy, but he (Frank) won't give the captain any grace.
Other Belief Systems
Henry has magical powers, including second sight and the ability to walk in others' dreams. He received these powers when his blood mingled with the soul of a dandelion. He can channel energy from living things; power and visions often swirl around him. He uses his power to battle the evil Nimiane, whose dark magic kills or holds people captive. The witch-queen mingled her blood with Henry's in a previous book, causing a scar on Henry's face to grow and fester.
Henry's grandmother can dream-walk like Henry. She sometimes walks in Henry's dreams and offers guidance. Henry has many dreams that offer insight into future events. He walks in the witch-queen's dreams. She tells him he lives within her, that he is her strength and that he is part of her. When he is with her, she says, he will never need to eat because she will feed him.
The worlds in which Henry lives and interacts are filled with wizards, fairies and other magical beings. Fairies live by The Book of Faeren. Henry speculates that his ancestors imprisoned the witch-queen using some sort of sealing spell.
Fat Frank says that the power-drunk emperor is the lord of the fish and people and planets and that he only lets God rule every second Tuesday. Fat Frank sometimes uses magic in an effort to help Henry's family.
Henry meets Nimroth, called Blackstar, in a crypt in Endor. Nimroth calls itself the ruler of men and demons, master of genies and Adam to the undying race. It says it cast the first races down and made the moons cold. It tells Henry that Nimiane's blood is eating him (Henry) and that she drinks souls.
The Chestnut King tells Henry about the gin, which are like genies. He says if a person frees one, his skin would turn inside out and an evil cloud would fall on his family. The king also explains how Nimroth got its power. It struck down its own soul and achieved the power to live forever by stealing the blood of others. Thus, a new race was born. Many wealthy people flocked to Endor seeking immortality like Nimroth's. A marble called the Blackstar and bearing Nimroth's power eventually disables Nimiane.
Henry tucks a baseball in his pocket for good luck. Some of the fairies think Mordecai is a demon that could suck their souls out of their noses. A man on Uncle Frank's ship says the gods have no love for him.
Henrietta playfully slaps Henry's butt. Henry destroys one of the queen's fingerlings by slicing a hot blade through his scalp. Coradin thinks about ripping off the finger on his head by digging out the blood that rooted it to his skull. The witch-queen's voice within him continually urges him to kill. Sometimes when Henry travels between worlds, blood gushes from various parts of his body. Many of the slaves on a ship are killed or badly injured and thrown overboard.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- How would you describe Henry in the beginning of the "100 Cupboards"series?
- How does he change and grow?
What events or circumstances bring about these changes?
Describe Fat Frank. What kind of Chestnut King will he be? Explain your answer.
What role does family loyalty play in this book?
- How do Henry and his family work together to destroy the witch-queen?
Alcohol: Uncle Caleb drinks wine at a celebration. Fat Frank drinks so much alcohol that Henry doesn't think it's possible for him to get drunk. Fat Frank orders strong drink while at a pub with kids from Henry's family.
Smoking: A teenage boy offers some girls a cigarette. A ship's captain smokes a pipe.
Lying: Henry lies about his identity in Kansas so he won't be caught.
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Readability Age Range
9 to 12
Random House Children's Books, a division of Random House Inc.