Book of Enchantments by Patricia C Wrede: Review

Title: Book of Enchantments
Author: Patricia C Wrede
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 2005
Length: 256
Series: Stand Alone
Reason for Discovery: I love the Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C Wrede
 
This witty and charming collection of ten short fantasies includes a story, set in the Enchanted Forest, about Queen Cimorene's Frying Pan of Doom; a zany yarn about a magical blue chipmunk with a passion for chestnuts; and an eerie tale of a caliph who turns his vizier's daughter into a wolf.
 
One of my favorite series is the young adult series entitled the Enchanted Forest Chronicles. It is a collection of four books that chronicle the adventures of Princess Cimorene. Over the course of the series Cimorene fights wizards by dumping buckets of soapy water with a bit of lemon on them, making large quantities of cherries jubilee for dragons, and giving Rumpelstiltskin's great, great, great, great, great grandchild. The books are so fun and witty. When I cam across Book of Enchantments at the library, I had to get it, because (1) there was an Enchanted Forest story in it and (2) I wanted to read more by Patricia C Wrede.
 
This book contain ten short stories and a recipe for Quick After-Battle Chocolate Cake. All of the books have fantasy elements. Eight of the stories take place in magical realms and two of them take place in a contemporary, modern setting. I would classify this book as young adult.

I remember looking at this book on Amazon a year or so ago and deciding not to get it, because I read a few reviews saying that this book is not for someone who is looking for more of the Enchanted Forest Chronicles. This is undeniably true. Outside of the Enchanted Forest story that is fun and witty, the rest of the other stories are varying levels of sadness. I must admit that I was taken back at how heartbreaking some of the stories are. For example, one story is about a prince who does not rescue his princess at the needed time and another story is about two sisters who hate each other. The meat of most of these stories is very different from what the blurb suggests.

At the same time, these stories were really well written and enjoyable reads, even if some of them were sad. I found all the stories to be very interesting and unique. Even though I liked some of the stories more than others, I was surprised that I really enjoyed all of the stories. They all hold their own. None of the stories felt like filler. The Enchanted Forest story, however, did feel a little out of place next to the other stories, which were not as light. I am assuming that the publisher wanted to capitalize on people's love of the Enchanted Forest Chronicles.
 
 Wrede writes characters who are clever first and foremost, and you can see this in Book of Enchantments. Some of the protagonists rely on magic, others do not, but all of them have good heads on their shoulders. I might have said that this is a weakness in a collection of short stories; however, in a collection of fairy tales, I expect my protagonists to be clever. Fairy tale protagonists know that magic has a price, so they best use their brains to help them get out of their jams. I was surprised how quickly I attached to these characters and cared for them. I have read a handful of novellas recently, and the characters felt more believable in this book than in any of the recent novellas.

Overall, I really enjoyed this collection of short stories. I need to pick up my very own copy of this book.
 
I give this book 4 out of 5 kitties. 
 
 

12 comments:

Chene Sterckx said...
November 13, 2013 at 3:23 AM

Great Review Pamela :) I am so glad you decided to give the book a try and I really enjoyed the last paragraph of your review discussing the protagonists and relying on magic part.

Chanzie @ Mean Who You Are.

kimbacaffeinate said...
November 13, 2013 at 4:30 PM

Pamela what age group is this geared for? The reason I ask is that I have a niece who loves to read and is in the 6th-7th grade. I think she would enjoy these but also want to challenge her. Wonderful review :)

katenread said...
November 13, 2013 at 5:46 PM

I'm not sure I can resist a magical blue chipmunk. Or a Frying Pan of Doom for that matter.

Pabkins said...
November 13, 2013 at 8:37 PM

Ok I'm not cool with varying levels of sadness. I need something more upbeat you know? By the way THIS cover could use a redesign - I like the image only if they treated it in a different illustration style.

Berls said...
November 13, 2013 at 11:32 PM

This sound like a really great collection - I'm surprised that most the stories have a sad tone to them, not at all what I would have expected. I love that the characters were so believable - I agree that can be a real shortcoming in shorts. Great review :-)

Pamela D said...
November 14, 2013 at 1:42 AM

I love finding books I am on the fence about at the library!

Pamela D said...
November 14, 2013 at 1:57 AM

I am so bad about estimating age appropriateness (I read Stephen King in 6th grade, there weren't a lot of age appropriate SF&F when I was little). Amazon says that the Book of Enchantments age range is 10+ and the grade level is 4th-8th. I found this book in the children's section of the library when I was getting a Goosebumps book by RL Stine, just to give you an idea of how the library classified it.

If your niece is a super advanced reader, this may be a bit too young, but if she is an "average reader" I think this book would be appropriate (in terms of writing style). In terms of actual subject material, I can see a young adult or adult read this book. I go back and reread the Enchanted Forest Chronicles all the time. They are quick reads, but the stories are really well written. I have only read the Book of Enchantments once, but I can see myself going back and rereading it because the stories were clever.

I hope that helps!

Pamela D said...
November 14, 2013 at 1:58 AM

Patricia C Wrede just pulls you in with the clever story telling! :) If you like the idea of a Frying Pan of Doom, you should check out her Enchanted Forest Chronicles. :)

Pamela D said...
November 14, 2013 at 2:00 AM

You might like the Enchanted Forest Chronicles then. Those books are much happier. The stories in this book were mainly sad, but still really good.

I agree that the cover is not great. The Enchanted Forest Chronicles books got redesigned and I hate the covers. I don't have the copies from when I was little, so I have to do my rereads with the ugly cover books. :(

Pamela D said...
November 14, 2013 at 2:01 AM

I was really surprised too, because her other books are so happy. They did not all have depressing endings, but they didn't all end with puppies and rainbows.

Kimberly @ Turning the Pages said...
November 20, 2013 at 2:13 AM

I love the Enchanted Forest Chronicles and I've been meaning to give this one a try for a long time! Thanks for the review Pamela, I like how you mentioned how her writing is slightly different in these stories.
-Kimberly @ Turning the Pages

Pamela D said...
November 20, 2013 at 11:42 PM

I was so excited when you mentioned the Enchanted Forest Chronicles on your blog! I don't know too many people who have read these books.

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