One of the rereads I planned this year was Patricia C. Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles, which are among the very best fairy tale retellings I’ve ever read (and that’s saying a lot!) I’m midway through a reread right now, so because of that and because I consider this series an inspiration for my soon-to-be-released fairy tale novel, it seems an appropriate time to share this particular review again!
I was recently sketching over the plotline of The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede for a friend, and realized that I actually remembered all the character names. As I’ve mentioned, I am bad at character names. Oh sure, I remember the main character (maybe!), but the main character’s best friend? Probably not.
But for The Enchanted Forest Chronicles…Cimorene is the heroine, and her best friend is named Alianora. And I could give you at least another six or seven names besides. All of which should say something about how great this series is!
It all starts with Cimorene, a princess who decides that she’d rather be kidnapped by a dragon than marry the boring prince her parents picked out. Princesses are kidnapped by dragons sometimes, you know. Taking advice from an enchanted frog, Cimorene goes off to find a dragon and volunteer. The dragon Kazul agrees to take her on, especially after hearing that Cimorene can cook cherries jubilee.
Is that already enough to convince you these are wonderful books? If not, I can also tell you that the story goes on with evil wizards, all manner of enchanted creatures, a magical forest (of course) and endless fun references to fairy tales. They’re funny, exciting, and even romantic in spots.
It’s not a romance with that boring prince from the beginning–Prince Therandil does turn up, but he stays insufferable. He comes to fight the dragon to rescue Cimorene; he would have come back earlier in the book, except that he was waiting for Kazul to defeat an impressive number of challengers first. He’s very put out when Cimorene explains no one’s actually fought Kazul–she’s been talking the challengers out of it, which has been very inconvenient and time-consuming.
Wrede has created one of those wonderful things in retold fairy tales–a world where there are strange and marvelous things like djinns and enchanted swords and magical caves and (of course) dragons, but where you also have to deal with getting the right pot for your cherries jubilee, and cleaning the dust out of (non-magical) caves.
The series is a quartet, plus a couple of short stories. I think my favorite book is the third, narrated by the witch Morwen, who has nine talking cats (who only she understands). This one also features a rabbit named Killer, who has a penchant for stumbling into spells, piling layer after layer of enchantment on himself. In a magical, rabbit sort of way, he’s not unlike my character, Jones.
I don’t think any of the books retell any specific fairy tale, but they’re all riddled with references, sometimes made quite casually. When Cimorene’s parents want her to get married, she says she’s too young. Her mother replies, “Your Great-Aunt Rose was married at sixteen…One really can’t count all those years she spent asleep under that dreadful fairy’s curse.” In the second book we meet a giant who’s very friendly as long as your name isn’t Jack, and a dwarf named Herman who tried the Rumpelstiltskin trade, but got stuck with tons of children when no one could guess his name (and he thought Herman would be easy).
I could probably go on citing incidents and examples for a long time…but better to just read the books. They’re good adventures, very funny–and obviously, have memorable characters!
Author’s site: http://pcwrede.com/
Buy it here: The Enchanted Forest Chronicles