Wrede, Patricia C. Talking to Dragons (1995). 255 Pages. Scholastic. $4.95
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles: Book Four (or Book One)
Depending on who you ask, this is either the first book or the last book in the series. If you feel that this is the last book, be aware of spoilers. If you feel that it is the first, welcome to the Enchanted Forest Chronicles.
Daystar has lived right next to the Enchanted Forest his whole life, but he has never spent much time there. His mother, Cimorene, has drilled two rules into his head since childhood; always be polite, especially to Dragons, and never say yes to an unknown favor. When he is sixteen years old, he enters the Enchanted Forest for the first time.
Armed with a magic sword, and good manners, Daystar is sent on a quest, even if he doesn’t have a clue what he’s supposed to do. He makes the acquaintance of a fire witch, meets a small lizard, and a young dragon, all without figuring out much more than that the King is sleeping in his castle.
Eventually Daystar learns that the sword he is carrying is very important, that Morwen the Witch and Telemain the Magician are both very powerful and very helpful– and know considerably more than he does about his quest– and that his mother was very right in teaching him to always be polite to Dragons.
Eventually, Daystar makes his way to the Castle of the Sleeping King, where he figures out what everyone has been hoping he’d do all along. The book climaxes with an epic battle, and ends on a good note. It resolves the story without ending everything. It’s not exactly “happily ever after” but all the characters are set up to find their ever-afters easily.
The Series as a Whole:
I choose to think of this as the fourth book, because I’ve always read it last. It makes a solid close to a long story, one which has been well written, and is really enjoyable. The appearance and re-appearance of familiar characters makes it feel like one contiguous work, which is nice. Each one has just enough difference from the last that you’re interested, and things are steadily growing off what has already been set up.
As a series opener, it’s fascinating; you start with the end, you know the happily ever after, and so the “What” is solved. Reading the rest of the books is like learning the “Why”, which is really not a bad way to do things. Beginning with the end is a fun way to tell a story.
The series gets an overall score of 5/5.
The Quick Version:
This is one of the first Fantasy series I remember reading, and because of this I know I’m at least a little biased. However, I’ve read it so many times that I nearly have the book memorized and I still enjoy it. This book in particular is good. Daystar makes a great protagonist, and whether you know what’s going on or not, you find yourself rooting for him. It scores a 5/5 for being a great book.