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The Robe of Skulls (Tales from the Five Kingdoms Series #1)

The Robe of Skulls (Tales from the Five Kingdoms Series #1)

4.4 23
by Vivian French, Renee Raudman (Read by)

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"A romp filled with language play and just plain nonsense. . . . Everyone gets his, her, or its due; goodness is rewarded; and evil punished oh-so-wickedly." — The Horn Book

High above the mountain village of Fracture, trouble is brewing. The sorceress Lady Lamorna wants a skull-studded gown of deep black velvet, but her treasure chest is


"A romp filled with language play and just plain nonsense. . . . Everyone gets his, her, or its due; goodness is rewarded; and evil punished oh-so-wickedly." — The Horn Book

High above the mountain village of Fracture, trouble is brewing. The sorceress Lady Lamorna wants a skull-studded gown of deep black velvet, but her treasure chest is empty of gold. That doesn’t stop her, however, from kidnapping, blackmailing, and using more than a little magic to get what she needs. Will her plans be foiled by the heroic Gracie Gillypot, two chatty bats, a gallant (if scruffy) prince, the wickedest stepsister ever, a troll with a grudge, and some very ancient crones?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Take a bedraggled, evil sorceress with a dire need for gold and a dimwitted troll for a sidekick, an impish prince with a goody-two-shoes twin brother, a noble-hearted yet naïve young maiden and her conniving stepsister with a chip on her perfectly slim shoulder, throw them into a screwball fairytale, and the result approximates French's (the Tiara Club series) latest. Intersecting plotlines map each of the four major characters' individual journeys over the brambly hill and through the enchanted woods until their fortunes collide for better or for worse at-what else?-a ball. What follows is as wacky as it is entertaining: as princes galore are zapped into frogs, quirky elements like mazes that change direction and talking bats move the story along. As any fairytale fan knows, there's always a happy ending to look forward to, and this one doesn't disappoint. The elaborate b&w sketches, on the safe side of macabre, add to the fun. Ages 7-9. (July)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Children's Literature - Melissa Joy Adams
Lady Lamorna, the powerful sorceress of Fracture Castle, must have a new gown made of black velvet and decorated with skulls, spider webs and poison ivy. After ordering her dress from the Ancient Crones, and discovering that she has run out of gold, Lady Lamorna concocts a terrible plan to bring her riches once again and guarantee her dress will be delivered on time. Her plan, otherwise known as "Prince. Zap! Frog," is to capture all the nearby princes, turn them into frogs, and blackmail the kings and queens for gold in exchange for turning them back into humans again. On her way to kidnapping the princes, Lady Lamorna runs into the very beautiful but heartless Foyce Undershaft. With a heart more evil than Lamorna's and a brain far more intelligent, Foyce might just turn out to be the perfect assistant Lamorna needs to succeed in her plan; then again, she might just turn out to be the kind of character who would blackmail the blackmailer. Unknown to Lamorna and Foyce, fate is working against them in the form of a poor but heroic girl, Gracie Gillypot, and a disobedient but brave prince, Marcus. Will these two unsuspecting heroes be able to stop Lady Lamorna and Foyce from their evil plan before it's too late? French spins a truly unique and quick-paced story, complete with comical bats, reluctant heroines, wicked stepsisters, and a really ugly, but maybe not so evil, troll. The writing is clever coupled with the comical tone and swift action plot sure to enchant readers. Collins's black and white illustrations add visual comedy as well as heighten the grim fairy-tale quality of the book. Reviewer: Melissa Joy Adams
Kirkus Reviews
Conceiving a burning desire for a new gown-black velvet, decorated with poison ivy, spider webs and skulls-wicked Lady Lamorna decides to pay for it by turning all the local princes into frogs and extracting ransoms from their royal parents. She gets help on the way from the considerably more clever Foyce Undershaft, a young lady of stunning beauty and "a heart as hard as a frying pan," who is also the evil stepsister of kindly Gracie Gillypot. Enter Marlon, a bat who addresses young folk as "kiddo" and is forever flitting off with a "Ciao!" to deliver messages or orchestrate some dodgy deal. Thanks to his efforts Gracie hooks up with Marcus, a scruffy prince missed in the general amphibious transformation, to rescue the other princes and to trick Foyce into entering a magical sort of rehabilitation program. Lady Lamorna even gets her gown, in the end. Larded with stock comical characters and illustrated with Collins's gangly, Beardsley-esque line drawings, the story will slip down like the bonbon it is. (Fantasy. 10-12)
From the Publisher
"Ttwenty-four-carat gold. I forgot reading could be this much fun." — Philip Ardagh, author of the Eddie Dickens trilogy — Philip Ardagh

Product Details

Brilliance Audio
Publication date:
Tales from the Five Kingdoms Series , #1
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
6.60(w) x 6.20(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

"Skulls," said Lady Lamorna. "Definitely skulls. Rows and rows of dear little skulls, sewn all along the hem." She sighed with pleasure as she imagined the clitter-clatter of bone on her cold stone floors. "After all, it really is time I had a new gown. Black velvet, of course, and long . . . very long. Perhaps embroidered? Hmm . . . yes. A motif of spiders, or maybe twists of poison ivy." Her huge silver eyes gleamed. "In fact, why not interweave the ivy with spiders' webs? That would be truly beautiful. And petticoats. Layers and layers of blood-red petticoats . . . oh, yes, yes, YES! It will be a robe beyond all compare, and I shall order it this very minute!"

Lady Lamorna snapped her long bony fingers, and within seconds a sharp-toothed bat came flipping in through the open window.


"I have an order for the Ancient Crones," Lady Lamorna said. "I require a new robe, edged with skulls-"

"Got it." The bat made a swift circle over the Lady's head. "Skulls, velvet, webs, ivy, petticoats. No prob. Delivery date?"

Lady Lamorna looked put out. "Bat! Listen to me! I would like a new robe, made of deep-black velvet-"

"Told ya. I got it." The bat circled again. "Heard you a mile away. I'm a bat, right? Bat ears 'n' all that stuff. Now-delivery?"

Lady Lamorna gave up. "As soon as possible," she said stiffly.

"Roger Wilco. I'll be back soon with info on price and delivery. Have the readies ready. Coins of all denominations readily accepted. Ciao!" And the bat whizzed away into the purple twilight.

For a second, Lady Lamorna considered frizzling the bat to a burnt ember as it flew, but then she remembered her delicious dress. With a smile of happy anticipation, she swept toward her treasure chest, flung open the lid . . . and SCREAMED!

They still talk about that scream in the high mountain village of Fracture. Dogs howled and bit their owners.

Cats' whiskers curled into corkscrews and fell off.

Children clutched their ears and shrieked in agony.

Only the old and extremely deaf were spared . . . the old, the extremely deaf, and Gracie Gillypot.

Gracie had been shut in her stepfather's cold, dark, and spidery cellar for being cheerful, and the cellar had very thick walls. Even in the cellar she heard a faint cry and wondered what it could be-but her ears did nothing worse than tingle. Her stepsister, Foyce, caught the full blast, and when Gracie was finally allowed out of the cellar, Foyce slapped her several times because her head felt as if it were full of stinging wasps, and she didn't like it.

Gubble, crouched only a few yards away from Lady Lamorna as she hit the highest and most piercing note of her scream, sighed heavily. He'd been the Lady's servant for more than 170 years, and he had heard her scream before. He knew what the scream meant. It meant trouble.

Meet the Author

Vivian French’s writing career began in 1990 after many years of acting and storytelling. She writes across genres and age groups and has published dozens of acclaimed books for children, including A PRESENT FOR MOM; GROWING FROGS; I LOVE YOU, GRANDPA; T. REX; and THE STORY OF CHRISTMAS. She lives in Scotland.

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The Robe of Skulls (The Five Kingdoms Series #1) 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
classlibraryadditions More than 1 year ago
One of my students purchased this book from a book fair to add to our classroom library. I took it home this weekend because the cover and title caught my eye. Needless to say I read the book in two days and would have loved to finish it in one sitting. The characters in this story are very creative starting with their names. The is a just for fun book, I am going to pick up the second one this week. I can't wait to see what happens to Gracie Gillypot and her wretched step sister Foyce.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Just above the town of Fracture lies a ghastly castle with an even ghastlier occupant, Lady Lamorna, who is just plain freaky. Her latest wish is a magnificent black velvet gown that is studded with skulls. When she goes to pay for it she finds that her treasure chest is empty. Instead of canceling her order, Lady Lamorna concocts a plan to pay for the dress.

Her plan includes a couple of members of the royal party, some frogs, and blackmail.

Then there is Gracie Gillypot, a shy girl who spends most of her days locked up in the cellar under the stairs of her house. When she's not spending time with the spiders under the stairs she is running after her stepfather and complying with his every wish. When a talking bat finds her one day, he promises her a better life and takes off. Days later he returns and helps Gracie escape. He's taking her to see the Ancient Crones, who will hopefully be able to help her with her wicked stepsister and stepfather problem.

Last but not least there is the prince that scoots under Lady Lamorna's radar. Marcus is a rather curious prince who really doesn't want anything to do with royalty. When his brother is turned into a frog he is determined to find the person who committed this heinous crime. Through a twist of fate he is paired up with Gracie and they set off to put Lady Lamorna in her rightful place.

This book was an absolute riot. While it is a super-fast read, you will find yourself enthralled with the quirkiness of the characters and loving the story. The illustrations are very comical, too! While this is definitely a middle grade novel, it is definitely suited for older and younger readers alike. I really enjoyed the quick-moving plot that keeps taking twists and turns. I loved how the author connected everything in a way that wasn't predictable and added to the hilarity of the book.

Overall, I really liked THE ROBE OF SKULLS and highly recommend it!
Meli_Green More than 1 year ago
I must admit this is a book where I saw the cover and immediately wanted to read it. After reading the description it sounded amusing, so I picked it up. It's probably clear from this plot overview that the book makes liberal use of familiar fantasy motifs. The fearless orphan girl, the evil stepfamily, the bored young prince, the evil sorceress, her dimwitted servant, and the magical weavers: they're all here. And their fates are what you might expect from every fairy tale you ever read. But originality is far from the most important ingredient in a good children's book; very few kids are going to be as jaded about genre clichés as the average adult reader, after all. French's writing is strong where it matters: in the humor that runs throughout the book. The jokes are pretty broad, whether at the anachronistic slang of the talking bat Marlon or the stupid yet loyal troll Gubble. Humor-tinged dark fantasy seems to be very fashionable in children's fiction lately, and The Robe of Skulls is a welcome addition to the subgenre. It's also a very well designed. The delightful illustrations by Ross Collins offer the same balance between humor and creepiness as the book itself; the cover art is a fine example, though its vivid color makes it even more striking than the black-and-white internal art. Readers of children's fiction, regardless of age, will enjoy this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I LOVED this book! It was full of light-hearted humor and good morals. Gracie Gillypot, a young orphan, is always forced to do all the work in her house, and her evil stepfather and stepsister lock her in the cellar every night. She's miserable...that is, until she meets Marlon the bat, who takes her on a wild adventure to the Ancient Crones. Meanwhile, the broke sorceress Lady Lamorna has devised a cunning plan to pay for her new robe of skulls...
MissAnansi More than 1 year ago
Vivian French mixes an evil queen, a young heroine and silly side characters with mock scariness and fast-paced adventure to create an exciting, clever story in this 5 book series. The bright cover and intriguing title drew my students to the book ... and then the characters took over. Good for upper elementary and middle school. And only hints at being scary -- just what this age needs.
Schotzeline More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed this wonderfully creative story. A wonderful new fairy tale.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a great read, tries to be 'scary' but is very funny, with charming illustrations that add to the characters. Both a boy and a girl main character, so good for both, and a quick read, so not too intimidating for reluctant readers. A fun summer read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
All I see are reviews about how good it is, but I have the book and I've tried to read it a bunch of times, but I just can't get hooked on it. But it sounds like a good book, so I'll give it three stars. ;D
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good start to a series
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Im locked out of camp. Fireclaw. Thistlekit and Ashkit
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book has alot of stories and is awsome
Mystryrdr More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The bats are awesome
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just loved it... It was quirky, funny, and lovable!)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I red 3 book it awsome
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I heard that youre... settled down that youve... found a girl and youre... married nooooow... Ive heard that your dreams came true. Guess u gave everything... i didnt give to yoooou. Ol friend... why r u so shy? Aint like u to hold back... or hid fm a liiie. I hate to turn up out of th blue uninvited but i couldnt stay away i couldnt fight it i had hoped youd see my face and that youd be reminded tha for me... it isnt over... NEVER ?IND ILL FIND SOMEONE LIKE YOU! I WISH NOTHING BUT THE BEST FOR YOU! DONT FORGET ME I BET I REMEMBER YOU SAY SOMETIMES IT LAUGHS AND LOVES BUT SOMETIMES IT HURTS INSTEAD! SOMETIMES IT LAUGHS AN LOVES BUT SOMETIMES IT HURTS INSTEAD.