Cressida Cowell won over a legion of young readers (and some of us older ones) with How To Train Your Dragon and its sequels, and when that series came to an end, many of us wondered what she would do next. The answer is a new book, The Wizards of Once, that kicks off another thrilling series about magic, this time set in Ancient Britain. It’s one your young reader of fantasy 9 to 12 years old will want ASAP, because it has:
- A world of magical creatures, including loyal snowcats large enough to ride on.
- A magical sword tainted by evil witch blood.
- A boy and girl from either side of a bloody conflict, forced to work together when an ancient evil is reawakened.
- All the humor, whimsy, and charming illustrations that made How to Train Your Dragon so fun!
In the ancient forests there once lived evil Witches, good Wizards, and a whole host of wonderful magical beings, from sprites to huge giants. When iron-wielding Warriors invaded from across the sea and met the evil Witches, they decided that all magic must be evil, and set out to eliminate it. So while doing their best to kill the witches, they are also trying to stamp out the wizards and magical creatures. This is the point where the story beings.
A young wizard boy named Xar, who hasn’t yet developed his magical powers, keeps busy getting into trouble of one sort or another. His current wild scheme is to capture a witch, and so he’s taken his cohort of younger kids, giant snowcats, sprites, and a giant, out into the dark woods near the Warrior stronghold.
Instead of a witch, he meets Wish, the daughter of the warrior queen Sychorax, who has set out to look for her missing pet. The fact that her pet is an enchanted metal spoon shows just how un-Warriorish Wish is, and indeed she is a grave disappointment to her fearsome mother, being plain, needing an eye patch, and not showing any skill at fighting. Though not generally interested in weapons, Wish has not come into the forest unarmed. She has a strange sword she found in her mother’s castle.
Paperback $66.39 | $96.00
When Xar and Wish meet in the forest, they do not become instant friends and allies. Instead, they double cross each other, and events explode beyond their control when Wish, locked in Xar’s room in the wizard stronghold, must kill an actual witch (the enchanted sword comes in handy, and in fact does most of the work) and Xar and one of his sprite friends become tainted with the magic of witch’s blood. There’s only one solution to the problem of the witch’s blood: a visit to the warrior stronghold, where Sycorax guards a stone that can suck the magic out of any living creature…a journey which in turn leads to ever-escalating danger and adventure!
Xar is very different from young Hiccup the Viking. Desperate to have magic and power of his own, he’s rash, headstrong, and often thoughtless, but not unlikable. Wish, on the other hand, is more level-headed and thoughtful in her bravery, and readers will quickly care about her (and her enchanted spoon friend adds to her charm!). And best of all is the promise of more books to come; the particular events of this story are wrapped up, but even greater dangers lie ahead for our young heroes….
The Wizards of Once is on B&N bookshelves now.