Tag Archives: wizards

Frogkisser by Garth Nix

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Frogkisser! by Garth Nix, paperback novel, 328 pages, published by Allen & Unwin in 2017.

Princess Anya usually hangs out in the library reading about magic and hiding from her evil stepstepfather (her stepmother’s new husband). Being the younger sister, she is not heir to the throne, and little is expected of her, that is until her sister’s latest beau is turned into a frog. Anya promises to find him and return him to his former princely self, aided by some magic lip balm. Anya sets out on an epic quest to locate the ingredients required to make the lip-balm, accompanied by one of the talking dogs of her court. Their departure is hastened by the news that Anya’s step-stepfather has decided to take the kingdom for himself, and wants Anya out of the way.

I suppose that Frogkisser! could loosely be described as a re-telling of the old tale of The Princess and the Frog. It is fairytale-esque, with princesses, talking animals, magic, villains, and wizards. It is full of adventure, quests and friendship. However, it is not a romantic tale of happily ever afters. Finding love is not on Anya’s mind, instead she must save her kingdom, her sister and her people from the destruction that her step-stepfather has begun to wreak. Of course, she can hardly do this single-handedly! By her side is her trusty, though somewhat over-eager canine companion, and the princely frog, who are soon joined by a boy turned newt. Throw in a mischievous young female wizard, a female Robin Hood figure, some dwarves and a transfigured otter and you’ve got this thoroughly amusing tale. All the characters were wonderful, though I particularly liked the Gerald the Heralds that kept popping up with news all over the place. These harbingers of all things mundane and important made me laugh.

It was great to see such a strong and young female protagonist for whom there is no romantic plot. She just gets on with what she needs to do. That’s not to say she isn’t scared or unsure, but she overcomes that to accomplish her tasks without needing to be ‘saved’ by some boy. Nix challenges the traditional gender and race roles with humour and irreverence, creating an entertaining and empowering read.

While Frogkisser! is aimed at a YA audience, I felt that it would be suitable for younger kids too, from upper primary school age. I would especially recommend this as a good read for tween and teen girls as an alternative to the traditional romantic fairytales. I thoroughly enjoyed Frogkisser!; it was my first Garth Nix novel, but it will not be my last!

 

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The Dream Walker, Land of Mystica Series Volume 1 by Michelle Murray

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dreamwalkercoverThe Dream Walker Land of Mystica Series Volume 1 by Michelle Murray, paperback novel, 119 pages, published in 2014.

Miranda is a college student when she becomes plagued by vivid dreams of a different world. As they interrupt her sleep and put her studies at risk, she feels that she might be going crazy. A simple spell from a local bookstore, and Miranda is transported to Mystica, the land of her dreams, and a land which is in trouble. In Mystica there is an old legend of six wizards, three white and three black, who were imprisoned in stone. Since then the magic has been gone from the land. Now the black-hearted wizard, Midnight, is free and rampaging through Mystica with an army of dark creatures and Miranda must find and free the wizard, Lightning, the only person that can stop Midnight before all is lost.

This was a simply written adventure with magic. It lacked the depth that I would expect from a fantasy fiction for young adults, and was really much more suited to middle and upper primary school children. I flew through the book in one evening, as it was an easy and enjoyable read.

The premise of the story is basic; a land in trouble, one special saviour goes on a quest to save said land. It’s a popular theme in books I’ve read lately, but I tend to like these stories, and I did like The Dream Walker, but I thought that it had unfulfilled potential. There could have been a lot more depth, greater description of the surrounds, and the way the characters moved or spoke. The time Miranda spent in each part of Mystica seemed too short, and the action scenes were somewhat truncated. However, the story is still sound, and it would be great for younger or less mature readers.

There were Ice Men, wizards, magical forests, warriors, Kings and castles, all good elements for any fantasy adventure! My favourite part of the story was when Miranda and Walking Bear travelled through the Forest of Lost Souls. I liked the idea that the trees could change the paths and whisper to each other. The trees could protect the forest from malevolent forces, while assisting those with good intentions. Miranda definitely had good in mind. She accepted her task bravely despite the danger she faced, and despite the fact that she didn’t even know that Mystica existed before she was asked to save it. I liked her and I hope we get to know her better in the future volumes of this series.

A handful of spelling and grammatical errors happen in most published work, but there seemed to be more than average in The Dream Walker. It interrupted the flow of the story a couple of times, but should only bother you if you’re a bit pedantic (like me). The formatting also changed midway through the book, going from paragraphs separated by a line at the start, to no separation later on. And the lines were double-spaced, which left me turning pages often. However, these things can be easily overlooked once you really get into the story.

The Dream Walker was a fun and interesting read, and I will be recommending it to my third grader to read. The second book in the Land of Mystica Series, The Dream Walker Returns is now available too.

 

*I received this book from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

The Candlestick Dragon by Melanie Ifield

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IMG_4407The Candlestick Dragon by Melanie Ifield, paperback novel, 194 pages, published by Melanie Ifield in 2013.

Daniel is short for his age, wears glasses, and is constantly bullied at school. He never expects to experience adventure outside of a book, he can’t even swim, and he’s not very fond of physical activity anyway. Yet a simple excursion to the recycling centre with his mother, Darling, changes Daniel’s whole world. He brings home a candlestick with a statue of a dragon clinging to it, but it is no ordinary candlestick! The dragon blinks his eyes, shakes off his stoney exterior and speaks to Daniel. He is Nilofar, a small dragon, roughly the size of a cat, and he is on a mission, sent from his homeland, Novarmere, through a gateway portal to Earth. Adventure is at hand, with magic, wizards, a young princess, brave warriors and terrifying creatures that Daniel could never have imagined.

I enjoyed this fantasy adventure story, which was exciting, well written, and contained interesting and well described characters and landscapes. I particularly liked Nilofar. As a child I would have loved to have discovered a friendly dragon that was small enough to sit on my shoulder, wrapping his tail around me and chuckling smokey bursts about my head! Really, I would still like a friend like this! Cute and brave, Nilofar was my favourite character, though all the characters were interesting, and I came to feel rather protective of Daniel. Rishana’s attitude felt very true to form for a young teenage princess with so much power at her fingertips, I liked her vacillation between pouty teenager and easygoing comrade. We were able to see her in her role as the confident Princess of Novarmere, as well as the young and inexperienced girl that she actually is. And their immediate enemy, the evil wizard Rullin, was suitably evil, cunning and boastful.

Most suitable for middle primary school through to lower high school students, The Candlestick Dragon is still a good read for adults too. Some younger readers may find some of the action and the mythical creatures a little frightening. There is some fighting and death, though I didn’t feel that it was overly graphic. I am happy for my third grader to read this book, and will be encouraging her to do so.

I received The Candlestick Dragon for free through Goodreads First Reads. It is the first book in the Chronicles of Novarmere: Dark Wizard Quartet. The second book hasn’t been released yet, but I am very keen to read it and follow Daniel’s next adventure.