Sugar and spice, and let’s not get sliced

Page 2:  Enchanted Forest review (Books 1 and 2)

Dealing with Dragons e-book cover. Dark orange background with wispy, white curls of smoke. The head of a giant green dragon appears in the foreground, like a horse's head with four spikes on the back of the head and multiple horns on the face. A comparatively very small girl sits on the dragon's choulder. She has shoulder-length bushy dark hair held back by a gold tiara, and she wears a simple white tunic-dress with a gold belt and gold necklaces.

Enchanted Forest Playlist:  

  • Anything classical; but also…
  • “Not a Pretty Girl,” by Ani DiFranco
  • “Dragon Lady,” by Blue Oyster Cult
  • “Cat Duet,” by Rossini
  • “Sarah,” by Trevor Jones (from the Labyrinth soundtrack)

Series rating so far:  5 out of 5 extremely useful buckets of soapy lemon water

E-book cover of Searching for Dragons. A comparatively small prince, wearing a flowing white cape and holding a sword and shield, faces a pair of giant red snakes, which are baring their fangs at him. Two smaller snakes hiss and bare their fangs below the two larger snakes.

Recommended if you like:

  • Lovingly satirical world-building that presents fairy tale tropes as conscious fashions and traditions that not everyone is thrilled about (like the “Wicked Uncle” in Book 2…he’s really very sweet, but goshdarn it, he has a reputation to keep!)
  • Anti-damsels who don’t mind cooking and cleaning, as long as they’re not doing it for some macho knight who gets to have all the adventures by himself.
  • Tangible magic systems — I LOVE how magic is described as a web running through the Enchanted Forest, whose strings can be pulled and twisted to create spells and warp space.
  • Totally nonchalant queer representation (there’s a dragon who’s described as too young to have decided their gender yet) and a pointed defiance of gender norms (“King” and “Queen” are job titles among the dragons, and each can be applied to any dragon of any gender).

Pitfalls/WARNING:  Nothing strong enough to affect my rating, because it only affects the e-book, and it only applies to readers (like myself) who are experiencing the story in chronological order (as opposed to publishing order).  Do NOT read the author’s intro to Searching for Dragons unless you want the ending spoiled.  Wrede assumes (not illogically) that her readers have already read the series beginning with the fourth book, which she wrote first.

For new readers, it may be more fun to experience certain plot points as if they’re not inevitable.  To put it vaguely, Cimorene could have made a very different choice at the end of Searching.  Wrede could have gone a different route and it would’ve made just as much sense, and fit just as well with Cimorene’s character.  On the other hand, the canon outcome does create some fun possibilities for defying more fairy tale tropes and flipping more gender norms.  See me in the comments if you want to debate!

Mental movie cast:  Maybe it was the mention of his dark hair being unusually messy, but I immediately decided that Mendanbar has to be played by Daniel Radcliffe in his Miracle Workers: Dark Ages wig.  Dragon council’s still out on Cimorene, but it would have to be someone who can master that shrewd/annoyed/slightly smug look on the 1990 hardcover.

Hardcover version of Dealing With Dragons. A scaly green dragon, with a longer, even more horselike head and three curved horns, lounges by a round table covered with a teapot, two tea cups, a book, and a chalice of chocolate mousse. A girl with two messy braids and a very small crown pats the dragon's snout and looks with a smug or annoyed expression to the left. She's wearing a red work dress with a blue and white checkered apron.

NEXT:  Wayward Children review


  1. I must admit, my favorite part was reading this: 5 out of 5 extremely useful buckets of soapy lemon water. Have you finished all the books? It’s up there on my list as a favorite series of mine. I honestly didn’t think I’d ever find a new favorite, but I have and now I wonder what else is out there 😀

1/100th of an Altairian dollar for your thoughts?

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