I knew what was going to happen in this book pretty fast. It wasn’t hard to see: the good little boy was secretly the prince, the bad little boy was secretly normal. Good guys get good things and bad guys get bad things, you see. That’s how Ibbotson novels work: everyone gets what they deserve.
That’s not to say that the plot twist wasn’t original. I can’t remember ever reading a book where a prince was both stolen, then switched. It’s two fairy tale tropes, combined neatly with the “servant is secretly royal” trope, and it had never been done before.
Not only that, but the various magical creatures are all striking twists. A Fae who chats with the fruit on her head, an ogre spelled for invisibility but whose one eye has to be exempt, so he either appears as a floating eye or closes it. A little hag who can’t for the life of her be anything but normal. A bodyguard whose weapon of choice is her knitting needle.
The end of the journey may be utterly known, but that does not diminish the value of the journey itself. There is a lot of joy in “The Secret of Platform 13,” and there are many surprises. Just not the sort you might expect.