When I was young I stumbled across The Enchanted Forest Chronicles. The series captured my imagination like no other had before. It turned several different fairy tales I had heard when I was a wee child inside out or upside down in fun, surprising ways.
For example, did you know that one of the lessons a princess is expected to take is how to scream when being carried off by an ogre? Or that she has to learn when to scream so the knight who has come to her rescue is motivated to continue the battle whenever he falters?
These are the lessons Princess Cimorene has to learn in the first book of the Chronicles: Dealing with Dragons. Cimorene is the seventh daughter of the King and Queen of Linderwall, and a complete irritation to her parents. Unlike her six older sisters, Cimorene is as tall as a man. She is also stubborn, has jet black hair instead of the proper blonde color, and refuses to be the damsel in distress. She manages to bully fencing lessons out of the castle armsmaster, magic lessons out of the court magician, cooking lessons out of the castle chef, and Latin lessons from the castle scholar.
All these activities are discovered, one by one, by the king and queen who put the kibosh on each project with the admonition, “Cimorene, this just isn’t done!”
Cimorene, admittedly, puts up with all this better than some girls would. But her forbearance comes to an end when her parents plan to marry her off to the Prince of Sathem-by-the-Mountains. Cimorene wants nothing to do with Prince Therandil (who is a complete airhead), and walks out onto the castle lawn muttering, “I’d rather be eaten by a dragon!”
Be careful what you wish for.
Cimorene does not get eaten by a dragon, but she does become the dragon Kazul’s princess. The two quickly become friends. Thinking about it now, I wonder if, on some level, Kazul felt like Cimorene’s mom occasionally.
The next book in the series is Searching for Dragons. The king of the Enchanted Forest, Mendenbar, is feeling haggled by his steward. Why? The determined old elf is desperately trying to marry off the king. The problem? All the prospective princesses on his list are total airheads.
In frustration, Mendenbar leaves the castle and takes a walk in the forest where he finds a burned-out patch of ground. This is unusual because the magic of the forest should have either protected it or repaired the damage by now. Mendenbar steps into the burnt circle and stumbles as he realizes this patch of forest has not healed because there is no longer any magic in it.
Mendenbar’s quest to solve this riddle leads him to Cimorene who is waiting for Kazul to return from a visit with her grandchildren. But Kazul is late in returning, and Cimorene is sure something bad happened to her. She and Mendenbar head out to find Kazul – and the culprit who is responsible for stealing magic from the Enchanted Forest.
The third book in the series, Calling on Dragons, is told from the perspective of one of Kazul and Cimorene’s best friends, the witch Morwen. Morwen is a witch who keeps her house absolutely spotless and neat. Unlike other witches, she is pretty, diminutive, practical, has ginger hair, and nine cats – and none of them are the proper witchy black. In this series it turns out that witches can understand their cats. Throughout the story Morwen keeps up a running dialogue with her cats as she, Cimorene, Kazul, and the magician Telemain set out in search of Mendenbar’s stolen magic sword.
Oh, yeah, and there is a giant white rabbit in this book, too. His name is Killer.
Killer’s plight in the story is actually more fun to read about than you might think.
The final book in the series is Talking to Dragons. The teenager Daystar has spent his whole life on the outskirts of the Enchanted Forest. His mother has raised him to always be polite; she has also taught him spells and every scrap of dragon lore she knows. One day, a wizard drops by the house. He tells Daystar’s mother that he will “take the sword, and the boy.”
Things really do not go the way the wizard wants. And this guy is so pathetic that it is no surprise. With the wizard gone, Daystar’s mother disappears and leaves him to clean up the puddle that was a wizard. (Wizards, not witches, melt in this series. It takes them a few days to pull themselves back together after this, unless they have been melted many times and therefore have had practice whipping themselves back into shape, that is.)
Daystar has just finished this task when he sees his mother coming out of the Enchanted Forest carrying a sword. The startling thing about this is that his mother never goes into the forest. Ever.
But she just has. And she has brought a sword like no other out of the forest with her.
I will not spoil the rest of the story, readers. Draw your own conclusions or read the books, whichever idea suits you best. The Enchanted Forest Chronicles are among the best sword and sorcery stories out there. I highly recommend them.
Until next time!
The Mithril Guardian