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The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede Darth_Katie Send a noteboard - 14/09/2011 02:33:45 PM
Okay, time for a Nostalgia Review!

Recently somewhere on the depths of the internet I came across a list of "badass women of fantasy" or something like that, and Cimorene from this series was on there. And I was like, I remember her! She was awesome! And I was possessed by a sudden desire to reread these books because I hate doing things that I need to do. So that's what I did! Each book is only about 100 - 200 pages long, and it took me around 3 hours to read each one. Unsurprising, given the target audience is like intelligent 7 - 11 year-olds,* but still.

If you're not familiar with the plot, it goes like this:

Cimorene doesn't look like the typical princess. Instead of being a delicate flower with blonde hair and blues eyes, she is tall and strong with black eyes and long black hair that she likes to wear in braids. She doesn't have princess-approved interests, either: swordplay, cooking, Latin, politics, and magic, among others. When her parents decide to solve the problem by marrying her off to an air-headed prince, she decides to run away and ends up working for a dragon. The first book takes off from here, focusing on Cimorene with the dragons and their fight against some evil wizards. The following books really expand the world and focus a bit more on the nearby Enchanted Forest and its king, Mendanbar, who certainly has one of the greatest names in fantasy literature.

The books are:

Dealing with Dragons
Searching for Dragons
Calling on Dragons
Talking to Dragons

These books are utterly charming. They're basically fantasy/fairy-tale satire for children, which is a concept I can get behind 100 %. Looking back, I can understand quite easily how reading them (and I read each several times in my youth) influenced both my sense of humor and my opinions about fantasy. There is definitely an emphasis on practicality and doing things for yourself, which is quite nice. A funny thing about the first book is that Cimorene runs away to escape from oppressive female stereotypes, but she ends up spending all her time cooking and cleaning for a dragon. At first glance that may seem a bit backward, but does organizing the library count as anti-feminist when it includes translating Latin and dealing with murderous genies? I don't think so, and certainly the whole point is that Cimorene is capable of taking care of herself and thinking outside the paradigm of "what's proper," which for princesses does not include getting dirty or cooking. On that level, I think these books are especially great for young girls to read because Cimorene is a wonderful role model. She's smart, determined, practical, and a bit of a badass.

The second book is my favorite, and it introduces us to Mendanbar, who as I mentioned previous is fairly awesome. I'm pretty sure I had a crush on him when I was little. Anyway, he's basically Cimorene's badass male counterpart. In this book, the rules of magic are fleshed out much more, and Mendanbar in particular gets a very interesting way of doing things. Telemain, a magician, speaks almost entirely in magical technobabble, which I found moderately humorous. Most of what he says makes at least some sense if you read it, but I kind of doubt I did anything other than skim it when I was younger. Anyway, I appreciated the way magical things (more or less) made sense from kind of a psudeo-scientific standpoint.

As might be expected, the plots are not too complex. Chekov's Gun is in full force for most plot points, which is fine. In fact, the way the heroes stumble upon a critical plot device is lampshaded in the last book. The villains in particular are rather weak and unmemorable, being little other than cackling stereotype evil wizards who aren't given motivations for their actions other than "we're greedy and evil!" They're also mostly ineffectual and not very threatening. I wouldn't exactly call our heroes round characters either, because they're honestly not. They are, however, interesting ideas and they certainly grab your attention. In my opinion, that's one of the strengths of this series. It's the kind of story that grabs your imagination (it certainly did mine when I was little) and makes you feel like you know a lot more about the characters than is actually written down in the book. The concepts are so fun you wish there was more, that you could really get to know the characters better. The other strength, of course, is that it's quite funny in a gently whimsical manner. The self-awareness of the characters of what happens in a fairy tale is pretty much the whole point.

I definitely thought the first two books were the strongest, and the third the weakest, but I highly recommend this series, especially for grade-school girls.

* I actually am kind of confused about what the target age is supposed to be. These books aren't that sophisticated, but they are very enjoyable - even for me, and I'm an adult now. But that might be hold-over nostalgia? I can't remember what age I was when I read them, but I'm pretty sure it was pretty young. Probably 3rd or 4th grade, if I had to guess. I don't know. It really doesn't matter.
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The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede - 14/09/2011 02:33:45 PM 7499 Views
I love these books. - 14/09/2011 10:42:04 PM 1460 Views
Yay! - 14/09/2011 11:43:22 PM 1412 Views
sounds terrible *NM* - 15/09/2011 12:33:47 PM 908 Views
Different strokes for different folks, man. *NM* - 15/09/2011 02:20:55 PM 748 Views
i think it's one of those things that had i read young, i would cherish now - 16/09/2011 03:31:08 PM 1289 Views
Yup, some times you just have to experience at the time - 16/09/2011 11:03:07 PM 1390 Views
I ADORE these books. - 15/09/2011 06:45:08 PM 1428 Views
Re: I ADORE these books. - 16/09/2011 11:00:38 PM 1359 Views
Re: I ADORE these books. - 19/09/2011 07:39:28 PM 1475 Views
I tried Calibre for like two minutes, but didn't like it too much. - 19/09/2011 09:41:00 PM 1575 Views
I hadn't even heard of these. - 17/09/2011 07:23:15 PM 1358 Views
I'm glad you enjoyed it. - 18/09/2011 11:21:12 PM 1418 Views
I'm totally getting these for my daughters - 11/10/2011 12:13:20 PM 1349 Views
Yay do it!! You're welcome! *NM* - 11/10/2011 01:27:57 PM 767 Views
Excellent choice. *NM* - 11/10/2011 05:51:42 PM 844 Views

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