Thursday, August 30, 2012


Horn Book (March/April, 2012)

In this accessible, full-of-surprises fantasy, apprentice wizard Sam is left lonely and beleaguered when his master, Flaxfield, dies. Then all of Flaxfield's former apprentices gather, accuse Sam of lying about his apprentice status, and threaten to send him to the mines. So off he goes with his pet dragon Starback, from whom he's separated almost at once. Like many a hapless, naive wanderer, Sam meets some kind helpers and some mischief-makers, but most agree that "he's the one." We don't quite learn what "the one" means in this volume, but nevertheless we accompany Sam as he explores an inadequate wizard school, performs a rite of the dead in the bottom of the mines, almost dies when an unknown enemy tries to snatch him into the land of death, and discovers that he and his dragon are one being. And more. Forward's fantasy has glimmers of Tolkien, Alexander, Rowling, and others but offers up its own friendly, sympathetic voice, imagined land, and characters. The novel's theme of the value of kindness is echoed in its epigraph: "It's no use trying to be clever…just try to be kind -- a little kind." deirdre f. baker

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