GtPGKogPYT4p61R1biicqBXsUzo" /> Google+ The Enchanted Forest Chronicles: A Look Back | I Smell Sheep

Paranormal reviews of books, movies, comics with author interviews and giveaways we love urban fantasy, romance, science fiction, horror, fantasy, mysteries

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Enchanted Forest Chronicles: A Look Back

Have you ever wondered why dragons capture princesses in the first place? Did you ever find yourself regretting borrowing that magic carpet from the giant? Do you know the difference between a magician and a wizard? Did you know you can melt a wizard? All this and more is contained within the books of The Enchanted Forest Chronicles.

A long long time ago when I was much younger than I am now, I read a series of books called The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede. The Enchanted Forest Chronicles is a collection of four books that take place in and around the titular Enchanted Forest. I remember them being really good books when I was ten, so I decided on a whim to go re-read them and see if they were just as good as I remembered. And just so I don't leave my one reader in suspense, they have aged rather well.

Before I get into the books themselves, I want to talk about the series. First of all, the series is young adult fiction, the books are meant for kids. However, they're still really good books which adults, or people who are ostensibly adults such as myself, can enjoy. For our readers who happen to have children, I recommend reading this series together because it's a series the whole family can enjoy. As for the technical details, originally the fourth book, Talking to Dragons, was published as a stand-alone novel in 1985. The other three books, Dealing with Dragons, Searching for Dragons, and Calling on Dragons were written in the early 90's and are actually prequels to Talking to Dragons, however I feel only Calling on Dragons suffers from some flaws unique to prequels. Other than that, the series as a whole is really good.

As my readers know, I am a huge fan of Sir Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, which has been lampooning fantasy tropes since 1983. The Enchanted Forest Chronicles are a lot like early Discworld books in this respect, taking fantasy tropes that we know from older stories and folklore, and subverting them in clever ways. For example, we all know dragons kidnap princesses, and the princesses are usually rescued by some valiant knight or kind and noble prince. Since St. George and the Dragon this story archetype goes back centuries. But have you ever wondered why the dragons kidnap princesses in the first place? It seems a very silly thing to do, considering it seems to bring knights right to their doorstep. Well, in Dealing with Dragons we find out the dragons use the princesses as a sort of housekeeper, cooking meals, washing tables, organizing treasure (because dragons are rather untidy creatures.) And of course most princesses aren't very good at this seeing as they're...well...princesses. Our heroine, Princess Cimorene, was never a conventional princess to begin with and runs away from home to become a dragon's princess. And it turns out she's really quite good at it and has no interest in being rescued by anyone. However it seems the wizards, old enemies of the dragons, are up to no good and it falls to Cimorene to stop them.

The second book, Searching for Dragons, introduces us to Mendanbar, king of the Enchanted Forest, and gives us more information about the Enchanted Forest itself, which was only casually introduced in the previous book. Mendanbar has found several burned patches of forest, and he fears dragons might be involved. However, upon meeting Cimorene on a visit to the King of Dragons (who's gone missing) he finds that it is not the dragons, but rather the wizards who are trying to cause trouble. Together they adventure to try and stop the wizards before it's too late.

The third book, Calling on Dragons, is told from the perspective of Morwen, a witch who lives in the Enchanted Forest. And I like Morwen as a character a lot, the problem is this book sort of suffers from the disease prequels tend to get: we already know how the story ends, we already know how it begins, this story is just filling in the dots. Honestly, it's still a funny book and I can recommend it, but it still...feels like it's missing something.

The final...or rather first book, Talking to Dragons, is told from the perspective of Daystar, Cimorene's son. Now, I know I said that the other books are told from a perspective, but this one is told in the first person. The other books just happen to follow Cimorene, Mendanbar, and Morwen around, the characters do not actually tell the story. In this one, Daystar serves as our narrator. To be honest, this book has a different sort of feel to it from the others, however since it was written about six years earlier I suppose that makes sense. That being said, it's still a good comedy and teaches the importance of proper manners.

What? Dragons are very picky on proper manners. Furthermore they're dragons, they can eat you if you're impolite.

Now, I have to admit that the motivations of certain characters are kind of weak in the middle books. For example, it's mentioned that it's very stupid for the wizards to SPOILER! kidnap the King of Dragons in Searching for Dragons, but it's never really explained why they take that risk. The book's still good, but it seems the wizards are being evil just for the sake of being evil, which is never really good character motivation. In Calling on Dragons we also meet a certain individual who hates what he calls "untraditional" magic and who is a thorn in Morwen's side. (By the way, Morwen has nine cats, none of them black, doesn't cackle, stands up straight, and has a sign over her door which says NONE OF THIS NONSENSE PLEASE. She is about as far from being a traditional witch as you can get without being a witch at all.) And it seems like this guy is a thorn in the side of the magical community at large. But....he himself does not seem to have any magical ability, or if he does then it's never really mentioned. He seems to be that guy who writes an editorial to the paper each week about the damn kids and their music these days and how they don't know the value of a dollar, HEY! GET OFF MY LAWN! Seriously, that's kind of what I see him as one takes those people seriously in real life, so I would expect the magical community to not care. I just felt like he played too large of a role. The third book still has a really good plot, but it gets eclipsed by the problem I just mentioned, as well as the overall feeling that it's just connecting books.

Ultimately, as I said before, these books are meant for kids but that doesn't mean an adult can't enjoy them as well. For our readers who have kids somewhere in the seven to ten age range, I recommend getting these books and reading them together as a family. You're in for a ton of laughs and will meet a few interesting characters on the way.


  1. Thanks for letting me know about these books! My 10 year old has to find a fantasy book to do a book report on and this looks perfect! I love the cover of Dealing With Dragons.

  2. LOVE dragons! Wow these looking amazing and I had no idea about them until now. Totally missed out on these when I was a kid :(

    Good thing I have a kid and can make him read them now. hehehehe