Calling on Dragons: Weakest book in the series

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fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsCalling on Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede children's fantasy audiobook reviewsCalling on Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

Warning: Contains spoilers for previous books in this series: Dealing with Dragons and Searching for Dragons.

Calling on Dragons is the third book in Patricia C. Wrede’s ENCHANTED FOREST CHRONICLES series for young readers. I loved the first book, Dealing with Dragons, for its fun quirky plot, but mainly because of the way Wrede turned the princess and fantasy tropes on their heads. Princess Cimorene decides she does not want to do princess things such as etiquette and embroidery, and she doesn’t want to marry a silly handsome prince, so she runs away and becomes the right-hand man of the King of the Dragons (who happens to be female). I found this refreshing for a children’s fantasy story written in 1990.

Wrede does it again in Searching for Dragons, this time with a male protagonist, Mendanbar, the King of the Enchanted Forest. He doesn’t want to marry a silly princess. When he meets Cimorene, he knows he’s found the right woman and after they save the Enchanted Forest from the evil wizards, they get married.

Now, in Calling on Dragons, Cimorene is pregnant and those sneaky wizards are at it again. They’ve stolen Mendanbar’s magic sword and a quest is formed to get it back. The usual characters are involved, but this time they’re accompanied by nine talking cats and a bunny named Killer who is 8 feet tall due to a magic spell gone awry. The plot, which takes a while to get going because of all of the talking, planning, and jesting that comes first, is exceedingly silly. The jokes tend to be puerile and have become repetitive. It was funny the first time Cimorene melted a wizard with a bucket of soapy water with a little bit of lemon juice in it, but this gimmick is becoming tiresome. The magical laundry basket seems like just another version of the magic carpet from the last book. I loved it the first time a princess refused to be rescued by handsome heroes, but I’m kind of over that now.

I also didn’t believe the ending at all. I can’t tell you why without spoiling plots, but I’ll just say that the solution at the end was arrived at quickly and it seems like there were so many better options. I think the problem is that the last book, Talking to Dragons, was actually published first and the “first” three books were written as prequels later. So, this bizarre occurrence at the end of Calling on Dragons is a set-up for what is now the final book. It’s awkward and nonsensical, but I guess it can’t be helped. Perhaps the children of the target audience won’t be as disturbed about it as I (a mother) was.

I guess it’s pretty obvious that for me, a middle-aged feminist, the charm of the ENCHANTED FOREST CHRONICLES was the way that Wrede subverted gender stereotypes and ridiculed fantasy clichés. Now that the novelty of that aspect of the series has worn off, what’s left is a rather silly story with talking cats, a giant bunny, and a blue levitating donkey.

I’ve been listening to the full-cast audio productions of the ENCHANTED FOREST CHRONICLES. Mostly I’m very pleased with the performance, though in this book, I found the voices for some of the characters to be slightly annoying. The bunny, who whines constantly that he’s hungry, grated on my nerves, but this was probably intentional. One of the cats is given a “hillbilly” type voice, which I found completely inappropriate. Cats are much too dignified to sound like hillbillies.


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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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4 comments

  1. It sounds like reading DEALING WITH DRAGONS is the way to go here.

  2. It’s been years since I read this series, so I don’t remember individual books, just a general feeling that they were all fun and funny. I didn’t know that Talking to Dragons was written first. Maybe one could just skip from book 2 to book 4?

    • Hi Kim, Yes, one could definitely skip from 2 to 4. Or just skip 3 and 4 all together.

      I like your blog. All my houseplants are fake. I can’t keep anything alive except my kids and my cat.

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