Monday, February 18, 2013

Read This! The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede

I didn't read a lot of young adult fiction when I was a kid.  I kind of skipped straight from Goosebumps and Choose Your Own Adventure straight to proper novels meant for adults (a lot of fantasy, also some improper romance novels I sneaked from my Nana, who had one of those book club memberships).

Nevertheless, the school book fair was always one of the most exciting days of the year.  It wasn't like the Scholastic book club pamphlets we got every month--those just had books designed for my age group.  Boring.  The book fair had books for teenagers, and while ninety percent of them were in the Sweet Valley High type of genre (by which I mean, romantic word vomit), once in a while I'd come across a book that piqued my interest.

Calling on Dragons was just such a book.  It was the third in the series, and try as I might, I couldn't find the other books in the series that day.  But the idea of a fairy-tale princess who takes herself out of the fairy tale intrigued me enough that I bought it anyway--and I was one tight-fisted little kid.

The Enchanted Forest Chronicles remains one of my favorite YA series to this day--one of the best things about fantasy novels is that the well-written ones never feel dated.

Dealing with Dragons begins the saga--we meet Princess Cimorene (one of my favorite heroines ever, and pretty much who I want to be when I grow up.  That or Betty White.), who doesn't like being told that proper princesses don't fence or learn magic or cook cherries jubilee.  So she runs away to volunteer captive for the dragon Kazul.  There, she cooks, cleans, practices her Latin, and kicks some evil wizard butt--all while sending well-meaning princes off to rescue other princesses.  (Something about a second-hand prince is just too perfect.)

In Searching for Dragons, Cimorene meets King Mendenbar, and that kicks off two books of twisted fairytale fun (wait till you meet Rapunzel...) and the kind of grand romance that doesn't make you want to gag or chuck the book across the room.

Finally, in Talking with Dragons (or maybe first, because the last book in the series was actually the first published), the adventures continue with Daystar, Cimorene and Mendenbar's son.

Oh!  And if you read this series, make sure you get your hands on Book of Enchantments, which includes the short story "Utensile Strength," in which our favorite family encounter the Frying Pan of Doom.  (This was a thing before the new Rapunzel movie.  Seriously.  Check out the publication dates.)

And you don't have to take my word for it that this series is one of the best:  It made NPR's list of 100 Best-Ever Teen Novels.  (Just ignore the Twilight series, and the list is a very good one.  Should I be embarrassed that I've read well over half the books on that list?)

(True:  I reread Dealing with Dragons last night.  Guess what I'm doing the rest of the week?)

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