I highly recommend this series to adults and children alike. It feels clean, somehow. There is good and wickedness, but everything eventually works out. I would not hesitate to give the main series to my nieces and nephews. There is a focus on manners and politeness and practicality. Everyone can learn lessons from this, and even if they are lessons you’ve learned before, it’s good to be reminded!
Dealing with Dragons
I read this right before I read Ogre Enchanted, which probably was not good for the ogres, seeing as this is so good and that was so disappointing! I remember reading this series as a child, and when a copy came up in my library’s give-away-pile, I snatched it up!
Cimorene is a princess who doesn’t like the normal princess things. She wants to learn fencing, magic, cooking, and Latin, and all sorts of useful skills. But her parents don’t agree, and they eventually try to marry her off. So, based on amphibious advice, she goes off to volunteer to be a dragon’s princess. She gets away from home and her parents are satisfied, as being a dragon’s princess is very respectable indeed. But unlike most princesses, Cimorene doesn’t want to be rescued. She turns away all knights who come to her door, and it quite content cooking and cleaning and organizing. She gains some friends and makes some enemies, some of whom are indeed dastardly.
Dragons are male or female but the title of King of the Dragons can go to either gender. Cimorene is confused about this, but her dragon, Kuzul, explains that the job of King has certain duties, and the job of Queen has certain duties, and they can’t be bothered to switch them around based on something so silly as gender.
Searching for Dragons
(First of all, thank you to Ale for helping me in my “search” for this book, and the short story anthology! I own the first, and the last two were available digitally through my library, but not this one for some reason.)
Just by going off the blurb on the back of the book, you would think Cimorene would be the main character in this, but she’s not! Nope, we have Mendanbar, King of the Enchanted Forest. When he comes across a patch of the Enchanted Forest that has lost its magic, he sets out to find out what happened. And in searching for answers, he discover that Kazul, the King of the Dragons, has been kidnapped! So he and Cimorene set out to find her.
I like Mendanbar as a character. He may not be the best king, but he’s doing the best he can. He’s polite to his subjects and doesn’t take advantage of his station. He tries to take too much on himself, but that part is a bit understandable. He also tends to use one duty to avoid doing a different one that may not be as much to his taste, but who can really blame him all that much for that? He tries to find the best solutions for problems, which is a good quality for a king to have.
Calling on Dragons
I think the best part of this one is the introduction. The author talks about how she didn’t want to write this book, but she kind of had to. She wrote the fourth book before this one and had to write this transition story. She’s not apologizing for the book, but she kind of is, and I appreciate that. This book was an obligation, and if you don’t like it, you can understand why. It’s a giant disclaimer.
This time we’re seeing the story from Morwen’s perspective. She’s a witch who lives in the Enchanted Forest with her nine cats. She’s been very helpful to Cimorene and Mendanbar in the past and has been friends with Kazul for a long time. She is the only one who understands what her cats are saying, other animals notwithstanding.
(One thing that I can’t decide if I like or not is Mendanbar’s chill-ness. He gives some bad news, and it seems very level-headed. On one hand, he doesn’t overreact. But I’m not sure if he reacts enough. But I suppose that’s the reaction a lot of people have in this.)
Killer is dumb. And annoying. He’s constantly complaining about how hungry he is, and tends to eat things he’s not supposed to.
Fun fact: witches (fire-witches in particular) aren’t all girls! So Hogwarts would be a very different school in this world, seeing how wizards and witches are very different with very different magic sets.
This does end on a massive cliffhanger, as the author said in the beginning. But the book is still complete in that the task that everyone set out to complete at the start is, well, completed. They all solved the problem, it’s just that another problem popped up while they were out. A problem that will most likely be solved in the last book!
Talking to Dragons
So this was apparently the first book written out of the whole series, and it was originally a stand-alone. You learn stuff when you read the author intros! It’s also in first person, which is different from the rest of the series.
We are now following Daystar, who we met, in a fashion, at the end of the last book. Daystar is Cimorene’s son. Cimorene raised her son in a small cottage right outside the Enchanted Forest, and taught him everything he needs to know, especially his manners. (It would not do to step on a flower that is really an enchanted prince, after all.) But she did not tell him what he has to do with the sword she gives him, or where he has to go with it, or why he has to leave home. But the rules of magic wouldn’t allow for anything else, you see. (Daystar is so wholesome, though, and I love him!)
I’m kind of wondering how this would read as a stand-alone. As the last book in a series, the reader knows many of the things that Daystar does not. He meets characters for the first time that we are well-acquainted with. We know who his father is, but he does not. And if you hadn’t read the other three books, you wouldn’t either.
“The hedge closed behind me with a prim swish…” This line is awesome, moreso in context.
Book of Enchantments
This is a book of short stories, and some of them take place in the Enchanted Forest, and some do not. Some of them are short and sweet, like “Rikiki and the Wizard” about a greedy wizard and a god who was very easy to underestimate. “The Princess, the Cat, and the Unicorn” is also very sweet, and set in the Enchanted Forest. “Roses by Moonlight” is an abrupt change of pace, as we’re in the modern world now. There’s a Lexus, and cigarettes, and loud music. And this one may not have as happy an ending as the others. “The Sixty-Two Curses of Caliph Arenschadd” sent me on a Google search to find out what a “caliph” was, and now I sort of know, so I did a learn! It is also light-hearted with a hint of the possibility of bad things. “Earthwitch” has some interesting ideas, as well as some terrifying ones. “The Sword-Seller” is a tale of bargains and prices. “The Lorelei” is another modern story, where strength can come from many places. “Stronger than Time” is a variation on Sleeping Beauty, one that makes far too much sense. The first paragraph of “Cruel Sisters” confuses me a bit. Just because something is magic, does not mean it’s true, and why should the dead not lie? And the last story, “Utensile Strength” also takes place in the Enchanted Forest, and involves Cimorene and Mendanbar once again, and an enchanted frying pan. With a bonus recipe! Of the ten stories, five are light and entertaining, while the other five have more substance to them. I would have no problem sharing the lighter ones with the intended audience for the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, but the darker ones may be a bit too dark for them.
In the afterword, the author gives her inspiration for each one. And for some reason I’m always in awe of how the authors of my childhood are connected. Jane Yolen, Bruce Coville, and Andre Norton make appearances, and I suppose it makes sense, they all wrote in the same genre at the same time, but it’s still impressive. I always think of authors as working alone, but there is a community, and I suppose conventions and things bring people together as well.