The Enchanted Forest Chronicles: Book One
Ages 8 to 14
By Patrica C. Wrede
Patricia Wrede (pronounced REE-dee) is a fantasy writer, and a fantastic storyteller. Her writing is fast paced and wry; her characters are interesting and witty and the worlds she creates are fully formed and ever so appealing. Fans of Tamora Pierce, Diana Winn Jones, Bruce Coville, or Terry Pratchet should thoroughly enjoy Patrica Wrede as well.
Dealing with Dragons is one of my favorite middle readers in any genre. Chronologically it takes place first in The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, which consists of four books. Talking to Dragons (1985) was published first and had three subsequent prequels, with Searching for Dragons (1991) and Calling on Dragons (1993) completing the series. I cannot recommend this excellent and highly entertaining series enough. Lovers of humor, fantasy or books with a strong female lead will not be disappointed.
Princess Cimorene found the whole princess thing completely unbearable. Her six older sisters were typical princesses, but not Cimorene. She wanted to learn magic, take fencing lessons and cook. She did not want to waste time with embroidery, dancing and etiquette. When she was told that her actions were not proper and certain things were “just not done” by a princess, she had perfectly valid argument; she was a princess and she was doing those things, therefore those things were done by at least one princess.
Her parents, the king and queen, were well aware of Cimorene’s stubbornness and decided something needed to be done about her, and quickly. They introduced her to Prince Therandil, the man they intended her to marry, and Cimorene decided she must do whatever possible to avoid the nuptials. So, at the advice of a frog and with the help of his detailed directions, she surrendered herself to a dragon.
Kazul was one of five dragons present when Cimorene entered the vast cave. Any one of them could have easily eaten her—after all, dragons are very fond of princesses. The sight of the dragons initially frightened Cimorene, but she’d gained her composure quickly and stated her case thoughtfully. She willingly offered to be a captive princess and cook and clean for one of them. Woraug suggested they eat her despite this but Kazul claimed Cimorene for herself. She was already obviously more competent than any of the other princesses Kazul had encountered, and she was eager to learn magic—something “not done” by princesses.
It wasn’t long before knights started arriving to rescue her. If a knight should defeat a dragon, he’d win the hand of the captive princess; Cimorene, however, does not want or need rescuing. She swiftly grew tired of explaining the situation to each well-meaning knight and, being an extremely unusual arrangement, it always took a lot of explaining. So in an effort to reroute and delay more potential rescuers—and to get a bit of peace—Cimorene went to post a sign, “Road washed out,” along the trail to Kazul’s cave.
She was carefully walking along a narrow ledge near a cliff when the earth in front of her just simply disappeared. She looked up to find a tall man cloaked in robes standing over her and she knew instantly that he was a wizard. In fact, it was Zeminar, the newly elected head of the Society of Wizards. Though he offered to assist her, she knew better than to accept help without knowing what it might cost her. Her refusal greatly irritated him; to her, a clear indication that his offer was malevolent.
That evening, Kazul and her guests were discussing this unwelcome and highly unusual event of a wizard entering their territory when—during the course of the conversation—it was revealed that a very important book of magic had recently been stolen from a dragon’s library. Most of the dragons present were alarmed and had quite a lot to say about this but Woraug only tried to convince the others that Cimorene was mistaken and just trying to make trouble.
Some time later, Cimorene noticed a wizard in a field collecting an herb she did not recognize; she clipped a piece to bring back to Kazul for identification. It turned out to be dragonsbane, a plant deadly to dragons. Though she’d only brought a small sample, it still made Kazul very ill. This new information, combined with the other events, spelled clear danger. Kazul dispatched Cimorene to share the events of the day with the dragon, Roxim.
On her way to Roxim’s cave Cimorene encountered an imprisoned prince made of stone, but upon rescuing him she became stuck with him. She could not be waylaid any longer, so she left him in one of the caves—a service room—along her route. When she arrived at Roxim’s she learned there was news even more dire than hers; Tokoz, the king of the dragons, was dead—poisoned. Trials to choose a new king would begin the following day.
Meanwhile, while quietly hiding where Cimorene had left him, the stone prince overheard Woraug and two wizards discussing plans to rig the trials for king. In exchange for guaranteeing his place as king of the dragons, Woraug had promised to surrender the King’s Crystal to the wizards which would allow them to locate every piece of magic in the world. The other dragons needed to be notified; Woraug and the wizards had to be stopped!
Cimorene formed a plan with some allies and they set off for the trials. But they were detained, and taken prisoner, by Woraug and his dragon guards before they could reach the location. Upon hearing the loud cheers in the distance, they knew a new king had been chosen. They soon arrived at the site of the trials to learn that Kazul had been crowned King of the Dragons! Cimorene, now the proud princess of a worthy king, couldn’t be happier.
Dealing with Dragons—a smart twist on that pervasive cultural juggernaut: the fairy princess—breezes along from scene to scene, with humor provided by knowing jabs at the standard fairy princess clichés.
Here is the full wrap-around cover so beautifully rendered by Caldecott Award winning artist Trina Schart Hyman.
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