(Man, that’s a mouthful of a title, isn’t it?)
Well, moving right along here in readalong land, aren’t we? I think I managed to read this in about three hours. Maybe less. Personally, I liked it a lot more than Dealing With Dragons. I think I like Mendanbar a little more than Cimorene, though not sure what that says about me. It may be that teenage!me liked Cimorene because I identified with her not being quite sure what her place in the world was, and adult!me appreciates that Mendanbar generally knows what he’s doing with his life.
All right, let’s do a quick overview for those who aren’t actually reading along and so do not know anything about the series, so they don’t live in utter confusion for the rest of the entry. The first book, Dealing With Dragons, introduced us to Princess Cimorene, who was not a typical princess and continuously butted heads with her parents for trying to get her to do princess-y sorts of things. She runs off and becomes the dragon Kazul’s princess (a post that is rarely volunteered for), and manages to stop a plot involving the Society of Wizards to get a certain dragon crowned as king (with help). Kazul is crowned King, Cimorene is happy with her spot, and everything is lovely.
Here in Searching for Dragons, we have Mendanbar, King of the Enchanted Forest, who is generally quite happy with things except his steward really thinks he should get on with marrying. He goes for a walk and discovers a large area of the forest has been destroyed, seemingly by dragons. Morwen (oh, Morwen, you continue to be my favorite) recommends he go and talk to Kazul about it, because there’s something funny about the whole set-up. Mendanbar goes to do so, but alas! Cimorene informs him that Kazul is missing and talks him into accompanying her in search of said dragon.
Maybe because I’m older and genre-savvy, but I thought the plot was pretty obvious from the get-go. What I really like about this book is two things: 1) the fairy tale twists, and 2) the description of the magic.
Ms. Wrede takes great pleasure in twisting as many fairy tales as possible. There’s the giant that only eats Englishmen (never mind that there are no Englishmen, because there is no England), the dwarf who’s legally changed his name to Herman because he’s gotten stuck with two many children from people not being able to guess his name, the uncle who’s not actually evil but feels the need to pretend to keep up appearances, and so forth. It’s brilliant and I like it a lot. (Herman’s probably my favorite, though.)
And then the magic. There’s magic in the first book, of course, with there being dragons and wizards and witches, but here Mendanbar is so entwined with the magic of the Enchanted Forest that he can actually see the constructions of the spells (his and other people’s) which leads to some very interesting solutions to some problems. Spell construction has always been fascinating to me as a reader and a writer, and I love to see how other people go about doing it.
Right, onto the questions. As always, your own comments and questions are welcome.
1) Mendanbar comes across pretty genre-savvy himself, since he knows he needs to follow advice exactly as it was told him to avoid disaster. Do you think this is a consequence of growing up in the Enchanted Forest?
2) How exactly do you think one repairs a broken flying carpet?
3) Why do you think Mendanbar’s magic doesn’t seem to decrease significantly outside the forest? Do you think there’s a distance limit on how far away it will still work?