Enchanted by the Enchanted Forest!
I was a voracious reader from the moment I worked out what those scratchy little black marks on paper meant; I started reading adult fiction quite young. As a result, I never read a lot of kids’ books like the “Narnia” series that people quote as their favorite reading as young uns. When I was eight or nine, I felt incredibly grown up reading ‘proper’ books. In the years since, I’ve realized that I missed out on some wonderful stories.
A couple of years ago in a blog on the Romance Bandits, Bandita Nancy Northcott who shares many of my reading tastes mentioned a wonderful series of young adult books by a writer called Patricia C. Wrede, sad to say, I’d never heard of. I nicked over to my friends at the Book Depository to check these books out and saw that they were a reasonable price. I ordered the first book of the series Nancy had mentioned, “The Enchanted Forest Chronicles.”
These books are fantastic! They’re so witty and funny, I sat up to finish the story in one gulp, chortling away at the jokes like a tiddly parakeet. I immediately ordered the next three and they’re all just as good as Dealing With Dragons. Seriously, these are such a treat, even if you’re not usually a YA reader, give them a go.
The first book Dealing With Dragons introduces our intrepid and independent-minded heroine Princess Cimorene. At the age of sixteen, Cimorene abandons her parents’ comfy castle when the king and queen start trying to match her up with assorted brainless princes . She resolves to live as captive princess to a dragon – an occupational hazard for princesses although few of them sign up willingly like Cimorene. Unfortunately assorted brainless princes keep turning up to rescue her from Kazul the dragon when Cimorene is more than happy managing the dragon’s complicated household. As this charming story progresses, we’re introduced to witches and wizards (bad guys) and assorted other magical creatures. Throughout, Cimorene navigates danger and difficulty with a strong dose of common sense, which proves much more powerful than all the magic surrounding her. She’s a wonderful heroine!
In book two, Searching For Dragons, all is not well in the Enchanted Forest and the problem comes down to the wizards trying to take more than their share. When Kazul disappears and troubling signs of decay appear in the forest, Cimorene joins dashing King Mendanbar on a quest to restore health to their world. On the way, they fall in love in a terrifically sweet romance.
In book three, Calling on Dragons, Cimorene embarks on another quest – the wizards are still causing trouble. Her company this time includes a morose blue flying donkey that was originally a rabbit (it makes sense in the context of the book), a hapless magician sick of being mistaken for a wizard, and clever witch Morwen. Morwen is one of my favorite characters in the series – she’s got a good dose of Cimorene’s common sense and generally comes up with a way to save the day.
In book four, Talking to Dragons, it’s time for the final battle with the wizards. The fate of the Enchanted Forest and all its denizens hangs in the balance. As you’re probably gathering, for all its humor and charm, this series follows a similar story arc to other great epics like Lord of the Rings, the eternal clash of good versus evil. The hero of this story is Daystar, Cimorene and Mendanbar’s son, a Parsifal-like character, innocent and open to nature’s influences. His journey to awareness and power takes him through danger and magic and transforms him into a hero capable of saving the goodies from the baddies. During his quest, he encounters a cranky young witch called Shiara who might just turn out to be the love of his life.
This précis gives only the vaguest idea of the richness of invention. Various fairytale characters pop in and out, generally revolting against what fate has decreed. Rumpelstiltskin, for example, is overrun with firstborns he’s received in return for spinning straw into gold, and now he has no idea what to do with them all. All he wants is a quiet life! One of my favorite moments is when the intrepid travelers in Calling on Dragons meet a farmer called MacDonald. Young MacDonald has taken over the family business from his dad and is running it in a much more industrial fashion. As he says, hard to make profit when you’re stuck farming with here a pig, there a cow, there a chicken. Yeah, it’s silly, but it’s funny.
If you want to pick up a series that promises pure entertainment, good laughs, a great plot and breathtaking imagination, I’d highly recommend this quartet. And hey, you’ll even get a couple of lovely romances thrown in for free!