Talking to Dragons: The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Book Four
"A dash of romance, a dollup of humor and a lot of fun. . . . A fantasy delight from beginning to end."--VOYA
"Grand adventure . . . both suspenseful and hilarious."--Booklist
Patricia C. Wrede has written all four books in the Enchanted Forest Chronicles as well as Sorcery & Cecilia, The Grand Tour, and The Mislaid Magician, co-written with Caroline Stevermer. Ms. Wrede lives and writes in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
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Taking place 17 years after the end of "Calling on Dragons", the series shifts focus to Daystar--a teenager living happily with his mom, Cimorene, on the edge of the Enchanted Forest. But his peaceful, uneventful life changes when a wizard shows up at his house and attacks his mom. Even more shocking is when Cimorene easily dispatches the wizard, then produces a magic sword, gives it to Daystar, and tells him he has to leave home and go on a quest...the reasons for which she refuses to tell him. Now with the help of a feisty fire witch and a few familiar faces, Daystar will have to use everything he's learned to survive the magic forest and fulfill his destiny....if he can even figure out what that destiny is.
It really makes me wish that THIS were the plot to "Shrek" instead, as it does the "twisted fairy tale" much better. It doesn't rely on pop culture jokes and is instead funny just by the simple act of taking the usual fantasy clichés and messing with them. Admittedly, it was weird to suddenly jump to using first person to tell the story, when all the other books were in the third person, but it makes sense, since Daystar's been left in the dark on what he's supposed to do (the reasons for which are eventually explained). As such, we're along for the ride as he makes his way through the Enchanted Forest, meeting all sorts of colorful characters, like an overly dramatic princess, an inexperienced dragon, and a bumbling knight. And many more, the reader will recognize, like Morwen the witch, Telemain the magician, and Kazul the dragon.
Daystar is a nice protagonist. He gets understandably frustrated, but is always polite and welcoming to everyone he meets, and isn't too proud to admit when he's made a mistake. He always listens and takes everyone's advice to heart. The most notable new addition is Shiara--a young fire witch who started off annoying, but grew more likeable, especially when she realizes she has to be polite in order for her magic to work.
However, there IS one negative. The author states in a note in the beginning that this was actually the first book written, and then the books preceding it were written sort of as prequels, even if they weren't treated as such when the series was finally published....and it shows. Personally, I think this should've been the FIRST book in the series, with the other three flashing back to show what led up to this point. Instead, by going in sequential order, there's many scenes throughout this that can get super frustrating when we, the audience, already know who the characters are and who Daystar truly is and what he has to do. As such, many explanations that Daystar has to sit through is super repetitive to the audience, and could've easily been cut out or trimmed down.
Still, after having been left on such a cliffhanger in the previous book, it was nice to finally get an entertaining conclusion to a series of adventurous and charming novels that constantly twisted the stereotypical fairy tale tropes. All good things must come to an end, but it was fun while it lasted.
Yes, this book was written first. But its events occur last. I liked reading it from Dealing with Dragons and ending with Talking to Dragons. Plus this book has been rewritten to fit into the internal chronology. So my suggestion is to read it last.
As an example:
"I knew right away he was a wizard. He had the same sort of feel of magic that unicorns and griffins have..."
"I knew right away he was a wizard. Not because of his brown beard or his blue-and-brown silk robes--although no one but a wizard can walk around in blue-and-brown silk robes for very long without getting really dusty. It wasn't even his staff. I knew he was a wizard because he had the same feel of magic that unicorns and griffins have..."
This is a great story, but I will remain true to the original, since I prefer the way the it is written.