March 01, 2004

Searching for Dragons
Calling on Dragons
Talking to Dragons
by Patricia C. Wrede

These are three more volumes in The Enchanted Forest Chronicles that Wrede wrote in the late 80's and early 90's. I suspect the Harry Potter phenomenon brought them back from dusty retirement as a way to fill up those tables at the bookstore that have large signs saying "If You Liked Harry Potter, You'll Like These." I've browsed some of those books and aside from magic or the supernatural as a leitmotif, very little else is like Harry.

However, I've been on a young adult fiction kick lately and I did enjoy these, so much so I actually stayed up late to finish one. They remind me vaguely of a cleaned up, more innocent version of Terry Pratchett's Lancre novels.

The books tell the story of Cimorene, the princess who's run away from home because princessing is too boring to be believed and has become the voluntary captive of Kazul, the King of the Dragons. Kazul is female, by the way, but King is a job description and not gender associated. There's a Queen who fulfills other functions.

In Searching for Dragons she meets Mendanbar, a reluctant King of the Enchanted Forest, while on a quest to rescue Kazul from the Wizard's Society who are using Kazul to suck all the magic out of the Enchanted Forest into their Wizard's staffs. This is a bad thing. Unfortunately, Mendanbar's magic sword leaks magic, and while out of the Enchanted Forest it stands out like a beacon on a hill for evil Wizards. Not to mention the magic carpet that they borrow has transmission problems and keeps dropping them all over the place.

In Calling for Dragons, Princess Cimorene has become Queen Cimorene and she's newly pregnant when someone, likely a wizard, threatens the Enchanted Forest with destruction. Because the magic of the forest is tied directly to King Mendanbar, he's unable to do the heroic thing and go on the quest to save the forest himself. Cimorene goes in his place, with the help of Morwen the redheaded, pretty, and nearsighted witch, and Telemain the Sorcerer who is really a magic geek speaking in magically scientific terms no one can understand until someone translates for them. Sorcerers are different from Wizards since they study all sorts of magic rather than specializing. And, oh yes, the trio have help from a bunny who's been enchanted to be 7 feet tall, then eats magical donkey cabbage and turns into a donkey and then is further enchanted to sprout wings and turn blue when he eats some specialized magic ag products raised by Farmer McDonald who is diversifying his farm. The bunny's name is Killer. They return to a really frightful situation with a war between the Wizards and the King. And the King is in trouble. Almost best of all, in this one we get to hear what Morwen's cat's are really saying when they meow.

Talking to Dragons breaks stride just a bit. The narrative switches to focus on Cimorene's son, Daystar, now 17 years old. One day, she hands him a sword and sends him on a journey in the Enchanted Forest telling him nothing except he will know what he's suppose to do when it happens. And then he has all sorts of adventures after meeting a fire-witch, a baby dragon and a lizard named Suz.

One of my theories about young adult and children's books is that the high quality ones can be read by both adults and children with enjoyment. These certainly follow that theory. I enjoyed them so much I told my daughter I want them back for MY bookshelf when she's done with them. Perhaps my son, the Terry Pratchett aficionado, will read them as well.

Posted by Deb English at March 1, 2004 08:24 PM

Will Duquette said:

They sound like fun....but still. "Daystar"? She named her son "Daystar"? I realize the series is probably aimed at girls rather than boys, but really, now.

Deb said:

Yeah, I know, it bugged me at first too. Not exactly the name for a manly man. It could have been worse, tho--she could have named him Lance.

In my head I had her humming under her breath "The Wizard's Staff has a Knob on the End."

Phil said:

I believe CS Lewis would back up your children's literature theory--or maybe I'm thinking of Tolkien. One of them said that a written work which is good enough only for children not adults isn't truly good enough for either of them.

As for your names discussion, that's one of the things which dogs me as a would-be writer. The name must be right for the character, but how do I know when I find it?

Deb said:

I'm pretty sure it was C.S.Lewis tho in what book or essay I dont remember.

Names are a problem,arent they? My husband and I had quite the tussle when naming our daughter. He said everthing I like sounded like fat, old German women. And now I am thankful I didnt burden her with a name like Gert or Lotte!