David L. Dahl
Lulu Publishing Services (2016)
Reviewed by Skyler Boudreau (age 18) for Reader Views Kids (09/17)
“Olivia’s Story: Protector of the Realm” is a historical fantasy novel by David L. Dahl set in Nazi Germany during WWII.
After taking a translating job with a mysterious man named the Major, Olivia falls into a comfortable routine with her work and new roommate, Vivian. Outside her happy existence, however, the world is at war. The year is 1943 and Hitler is terrorizing Europe. After a sudden accident takes Vivian away from her, Olivia is brought to a Fairy Kingdom in the middle of the night. There she learns the fairies are fighting a war of their own, and that the Major has become a prisoner of Nazi Germany. Behind enemy lines, an evil Jinn directs the war for his own motives, and the fairies need her help to stop him. After being named “Protector of the Realms” Olivia is sent off on a dangerous mission, both to rescue the Major, and save the world from the Jinn’s schemes.
This novel is perfect for children interested in World War II and fairy tales. The prose is simple and easy to follow, but engaging enough to keep a young audience invested in the story. The author uses fantasy elements to explain important historical events. In this story world, D-Day is caused by an army of fairies trying to take back their homes, and Nazi Germany builds bombs under the orders of an evil Jinn.
While the style may be intriguing to younger readers, adult audiences may find it unsettling. Some of the events and characters are taken too lightly. Hitler himself is constantly referred to as an “idiot” who doesn’t know what he’s doing, and anyone who has taken a high school history class knows he was much more. A mere idiot could not wreak such havoc and destruction. It’s important for children to understand the devastation he caused, but at the same time the target audience is too young to fully appreciate the impact of the war. It’s a tricky task and the author handled it as well as possible. The price of writing for an elementary audience is often down-playing complex matters such as war.
Reading “Olivia’s Story” as an adult was an interesting experience. Finding the correlations between history and fantasy was an entertaining pursuit and one any history buff or parent would enjoy while reading this novel to their child. An elementary school teacher could use it to open up a deeper discussion on World War II. I would certainly use it as a gateway topic with a child.
“Olivia’s Story” approaches a challenging task. In finding the balance between fantasy and history for young readers, it is forced to understate important points of the war. The genocides led by Hitler are not mentioned once and it is never explained why the world is at war. Despite that, the novel does what novels are intended to do: provide entertainment for a target audience. In this regard “Olivia’s Story” by David L. Dahl succeeds phenomenally.