Author: Patricia C. Wrede
Publisher: Point Fantasy, Scholastic
Genre: YA Fantasy
This is the third book in a series of four, the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, but I read it as a stand-alone book. It can be read and understood by itself, although reading it made me want to get the next book and find out what happens!
The book is about an adventure that Morwen (a witch), Telemain (a magician), Kazul (a dragon king), and assorted magical creatures take to recapture King Mendanbar's sword from the wizards. They have a long, hard trip, as befits a quest, and they encounter many difficulties and obstacles along the way.
I love how easily the author weaves explanations of magic into the story. Whenever I read a fantasy book, I want to understand how the imaginary world works, and Patricia C. Wrede definitely delivers in that area. Her explanations are natural and understandable, integrated into the story so that they don't feel like explanations.
The whole tone of the story is great, too. Instead of using a mythical tone, the author uses everyday language, and the characters speak in the vernacular of today's times. This, of course, adds to the hilarious quality of the story, as it is pretty funny to "hear" a blue, flying donkey called Killer talking like any person you'd meet on the street nowadays.
The characters, aside from sounding natural because of the common language, are all individual and unique. Each one has his/her/its own distinct personality, complete with idiosyncrasies and quirks. The author is consistent with these, and it doesn't sound like she forced these characteristics on them, but like she knows her characters inside and out, and it's only natural for them to say and do the things they do because of their personalities. That is something that I think every author aspires to - to have the characters come to life so that each thing they do is the only possible reaction for that character in that situation.
The book ends off with the immediate problem resolved but another one introduced, leading into the next book, Talking to Dragons. I definitely want to read that one, and I will probably get the first two books as well, not because I need them to understand the whole story, but because I love this author's style and want more of it!