Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Fantasy series, book two

37534756Burgis, Stephanie. The Girl with the Dragon Heart.(Tales from the Chocolate Heart #2)
November 6th 2018 by Bloomsbury Children's Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

The chocolate shop in The Dragon with the Chocolate Heart is still struggling a bit, since the owner, Marina, cares more about her chocolate creations than pandering to customers, but Silke is handling the publicity and trying to help. Of course, she tells a lot of stories, and is claiming that the Chocolate Heart products are so good that they helped deal with the dragons! The crown princess Katrin hears about this, and has Silke brought to her. She offers her a position in the castle as a sort of spy, which angers the other princess, Sophie. When royal elf visitors come to the palace, Silke finds it hard to control herself, since both of her parents were lost in a trek across Elfenwald when she was very young, which is how she and her brother came to have a used clothing store on the banks. Fearing that no one is being considerate of the dragons, her friend Aventurine's people, Silke tries to help but makes some bad choices.
Strengths: This is a solid continuation of my favorite fantasy novel from last year, and the story continues in a good fashion. Getting a view of the palace workings is different and interesting, and the secrets of Silke's past in connection with the elves is well developed. Katrin has a complicated personality, and Sophie's plight is a bit of a surprise.
Weaknesses: Not as much chocolate, and Silke is probably my least favorite character from the first book. She just doesn't think things through. True to life, perhaps, but somehow it irritated me.
What I really think: I will definitely purchase this, but was just not as wild about it.

Nix, Garth and Williams, Sean.
Let Sleeping Dragons Lie (Have Sword, Will Travel #2)
30 October 2018
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Sir Eleanor and Sir Odo are back with their respective talking swords. After the death of Sir Halfdan and the appearance of the former king Egda, the kingdom of Tofte is in turmoil. Egda's sister Odelyn is acting as regent for Prince Kendryk, but is going to have her crowned king because he is acting soft in the head, spending his time finger painting. The Regent has sent out unpopular Instruments to announce that the rules are changing, more money must be collected, and their way it the only way, so the knights know they must travel to help Kendryk out. Along with Egda's guard, Hundred, they set off on a perilous journey to Tofte, meeting a variety of threatening and helpful characters along the way. At one point, Biter needs to be repaired, and in the process remembers his former knight, who could be a powerful adversary. When the group finally arrives in Tofte, secrets about the lineage of the kings comes out, unsuspected allies emerge, and a new and surprisingly king is crowned.

Readers who like classic, medieval fantasy books like Alexander's The Book of Three, Rodda's Deltora Quest, Pierce's Alanna, and Wrede's Dealing with Dragons will adore the formulaic medieval adventure quest and its comfortable familiarity. Forests are always dangerous places, having allies in the Urthkins (who control the underground realm) allows them to bypass some of the more dangerous elements, and dragons can be helpful if you approach them the right way... and your objectives serve their purpose.

For all of its traditional elements, there are some fun twists concerning gender roles. Their are no female equivalents of ruling positions-- everyone, male or female, are kings or Sirs. There is a brief mention that Eleanor and Odo might be romantically linkws, but they are far too busy to think about this too much. Everyone on the quest is brave and powerful, and the only one who really needs to be saved is Kendryk... who has some tricks up his own sleeves.

This has many similarities to Flanagan's The Ranger's Apprentice books, but is slightly younger. The talking swords (whose voice is portrayed in an old Germanic style text) and the bats (whose utterances are punctuated thus: "L!o!o!k! l!e!f!t!") add an element of whimsy that will amuse a younger audience.

While I have been enjoying the fantasy adventure books set in other cultures and dealing with other mythology, there will always be a core group of fantasy aficionados who crave more British style Camelot inspired fantasy where there are swords to be wielded against dragons.

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