Having read Lloyd Alexander's best known works, The Chronicles of Prydain, when I was six or seven, I sought out the rest of his then-existent oeuvre a few years later. For whatever reason, I read the rest of his books roughly in the order in which he wrote them. So I finished The Marvelous Misadventures of Sebastian before Westmark; and I could not help but note the high level of similarity between the two novels. For example:
- The settings are both fictional worlds that are clearly based on the western European countries around the eighteenth century.
- The protagonists end up essentially as fugitives, traveling alongside the crown princesses of their respective kingdoms (although the princesses's circumstances are otherwise quite different).
- The villain, and the man responsible for each princess's predicament, is the effective regent of the kingdom.
- Along the way, the main characters join forces with liberal political activists.
- The princesses learn about the importance of reform and democratization (a theme in many of Alexander's works, also including Time Cat, and The Cat Who Wished to Be a Man).
Of course, there are important differences, as well. The Marvelous Misadventures of Sebastian is unambiguously fantastical; the plot is resolved with the help of a magical violin. Westmark and its sequels, on the other hand, are quite a bit more realistic. The only fantasy element in the Westmark books are their wholly fictional setting.
However, given the strong similarities, Alexander must have been aware that he was, to a certain extent, retreading the same kind of material. However, I have not seen that issue addressed in any of the interviews with the author that I have read or watched. (Perhaps this is mostly because The Marvelous Misadventures of Sebastian never seemed to come up for discussion. Despite having won a National Book Award, it seemed to remain relatively obscure compared to most of his other books.) So, did he ever have anything to say about the similarities, and why he decided to write about the same kind of material in Westmark?