Fairy Tale Friday: No Place For Magic

No Place For Magic is written by E. D. Baker. It is the sequel to Once Upon a Curse. It was published in 2006 by Bloomsbury.

Summary/Blurb:

“When Emma and her beloved frog-turned-prince Eadric travel to Upper Montevista to ask for Eadric’s parents’ blessing on their marriage, they find his homeland in chaos: Eadric’s annoying little brother, Bradston, has been kidnapped by trolls! Worse, his mother won’t let Emma use magic, even to rescue Bradston, and Eadric suddenly seems a bit too fond of the girls from his past. As they travel through unfriendly lands, battle sea monsters and vampires, and find allies in unlikely places, will Emma still see Eadric as the strong and loyal young man she thought he was?”

Thoughts:

No Place For Magic is a nice ending for Emma and Eadric, and it has a promising outlook for the future of Montevista and their stance towards magic. Emma’s spells are especially good in this one, particularly the spell that she places on Bradston. You can tell that her time as the Green Witch has really honed her abilities. Also, that part where she turns into a dragon and fights the Troll Queen is awesome.

So, once again, the blurb is a bit misleading. I was worried that the book would once again have a focus on the “Does he or does he not” aspect of Emma and Eadric’s relationship that was prominent in the previous ones, but it really doesn’t. Despite the rushed wedding at the end, there are virtually no worries about whether or not they will actually tie the knot—and that’s a good thing. It shows the growth of their relationship over the last three books.

I really do prefer Baker’s Wide-Awake Princess series to this one, and I think it’s because the former is more recent than the latter, and thus Baker’s writing is better. I liked the first two books in this series, but this one and Once Upon a Curse were disappointing.

Another mention of the misleading summary: I was looking forward to Emma conquering obstacles without the use of magic, and was disappointed when she continued to rely on and use magic. I was hoping for an actual magic ban, rather than a “If I use magic, they’ll know where I am but I can just keep walking and they can’t find me” device. I think it would have made Emma’s quest less similar to the ones in the previous books, and really would have made this last book in her arc stand out.

Also disappointing: the fact that Emma’s relationship with her mother goes nowhere. I would have liked to see some improvement or some explanation on that front.

Rating: 3/5

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Fantasy, Fairy Tale, Middle Grade

Passages/Quotes:

“Anything else?” I asked.

“Well, yes. I probably should have told you this before: the people of my kingdom aren’t as comfortable with magic as the citizens of Greater Greensward are. A lot of my parents’ subjects don’t like witches.”

“You must be extremely open-minded for someone from Upper Montevista.”

I am,” he said, looking smug. “But then you’ve always known that I’m extraordinary.”

~Baker 44

“Look straight ahead,” I told Eadric. “I think there’s a cockatrice to our left.”

I should have known better than to tell him, because the first thing he did was turn his head to look. “That’s no cockatrice. It’s just a big toad.”

“I told you not to look!”

Eadric shrugged. “I won’t when it’s a cockatrice, but I can look at toads, can’t I?”
~Baker 126

Overall Review:

No Place For Magic has a good ending to the story of Emma and Eadric, and the last fight with the Troll Queen was pretty awesome. However, this book was even more disappointing to me than Once Upon a Curse, and again because of wasted opportunities. Having Emma actually be in “No Place for Magic” as the title suggests would have really made her character shine, but instead, she does things that we already knew she could do and makes this quest pretty much the same as others she’s been on.

You can buy this here: No Place for Magic (Tales of the Frog Princess, Book 4)

Once Upon A Curse: Why Have Ominous Warnings If Nothing Comes Of Them?

Once Upon a Curse is written by E. D. Baker. It is the sequel to Dragon’s Breath. It was published in 2004 by Bloomsbury. Baker’s website can be found here.

Mild spoilers for The Frog Princess and Dragon’s Breath

Summary/Blurb:

“Many years before Princess Emma’s time, an angry fairy cast a curse on her ancestor, Princess Hazel. The fairy decreed that Hazel and all her female descendants, upon reaching their sixteenth birthdays, could not touch a flower, or else all their youth, beauty, and kindness would be erased.

Emma has seen it happen—her grandmother has always been a spiteful witch, and now her favorite aunt, Grassina, has fallen under the spell as well. Though Emma has wonderful new powers as the Green Witch, she has only a week before her own sixteenth birthday, and with it comes the threat of the family curse.

No one before her has been powerful enough to find the fairy responsible, or to reverse the curse, but Emma is determined-and with the help of Eadric; her favorite bat, Li’l; and some ancestors she has only just met, she may be able to outsmart an adversary she thought she’d left behind long ago.”

Thoughts:

I love time-travel, and although I had one major problem with it (see below), the time-travel in this book was executed nicely, if not as Back to the Future-ish as it could have been. Baker continues to use her characters in such a way that absurd situations never seem absurd, just humorous. Every character is used for some sort of humor, and it makes the whole story very fun to read (the fight with the dragon is especially humorous).

I absolutely adored the ending. I thought that Emma was going to fall to the curse and Eadric would break it, but the way Baker worked it out was just so absolutely perfect and so sweet. I also like how Eadric doesn’t really take center stage at all and how Emma’s position as the Green Witch compromises their relationship (the premise of the next book, where Emma must—gasp!—not use magic!).

A big “awwww” to the vampire for waiting all those years for Li’l.

Okay, so when Emma first went back the past and started changing things despite always thinking about how Dyspepsia had warned her not to do that, I thought for sure that when Emma went back, something big was going to be messed up and she would have to fix it. And I know that’s sort of obvious, but I thought, “Why have Emma remember every time not to change the past while she’s changing things in the past when something big like that is not going to happen?” But then nothing did happen, and I was just disappointed. Emma’s trip to the past was just a convenient excuse for her to hear the curse, and Dyspepsia might as well not have bothered warning Emma when absolutely nothing happened.

(I suppose that you could argue for the J. K. Rowling route; that is, Emma didn’t change the future because she had already done those things in the past; i.e., the first dragon going to the mountains to set up a home where, in the future, the dragons reside. But I still think letting the servant out of the oubliette was a bad idea, because she learned some information about the past from his skeleton in the oubliette, which would not have been there since she freed him in the past, preventing her from learning that information in the future. Or perhaps I’m just overthinking this.)

Also, the plot was fairly simple and I finished the book feeling a bit let-down and wishing that it had been more complicated.

Rating: 3/5

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Fantasy, Fairy Tale, Middle Grade

Passages/Quotes:

“It sounds complicated.”

“It isn’t really. I’m sure you’ll do just fine. Oh, one other thing—make sure you don’t change anything when you go back in time. Any change then could have a big effect later. Everyone always gives the same example: if you kill your ancestor, you’ll never have been born.”

“That doesn’t make sense. If I killed someone, and then I didn’t exist, how could I have killed him in the first place?”

~Baker 29

“I’ll go, Sire,” said Eadric. “I need the practice.”

Fenton made a rude sound, then said, “I’ll go, sire, to prove I’m worthy of Princess Hazel’s hand.”

“I’ll go, sire,” said Jasper, “to rid the countryside of a terrible scourge.”

“I’ll go, sire,” said the two knights.

“For honor,” said one.

“For glory,” said another.

“For goodness’ sake,” I whispered to Millie. “Do they all have to be so dramatic?”

~Baker 117

Overall Review:

I was a bit disappointed in Once Upon a Curse; although the time-travel was neat, I thought there were some major execution problems. It also seemed like it could have been much more complex and the simplicity of it disappointed me. However, it was quite funny for the most part, and the ending was great, certainly not what I was expecting in terms of who breaks the curse.

You can buy this here: Once Upon a Curse

Dragon’s Breath: “A Sword’s Name Shouldn’t Be Friendly”

Dragon’s Breath is written by E. D. Baker. It was published in 2003 by Bloomsbury. It is the sequel to The Frog Princess. Baker’s website can be found here.

Summary:

“Princess Emeralda (or Emma, as she is known) is just discovering her own talents—and lack of talents—for magic when her mother has a desperate request: their beautiful country of Greater Greensward is being invaded, and Emma must get her aunt Grassina to start protecting the kingdom with magic, or everything will be lost.

A simple search to reverse an old spell becomes an epic quest as Emma and Prince Eadric, her formerly froggy friend, defy the wily witches and wizards of the magical world.

From the bottom of the fishbowl sea, to the Dragon Olympics, to her own castle and her unpredictable family members, Emma proves she is a witch very much worthy of her inherited powers.”

Thoughts:

This book is even funnier than The Frog Princess, and has tons of nods to fairy tales and other fantastic elements. My favorite part of the book was the interaction with the dragons, although seeing Emma come into her powers and start winning at everything is pretty satisfying, too.

I also like the elements introduced in the books that pave the way for a sequel. In the first book, it was the introduction to Haywood, which naturally leads to this book being about breaking his curse. Then Grassina gets cursed, so the next book will naturally lead to Emma breaking that curse (Baker does this with The Wide-Awake Princess, too).

Emma has a sort of “Should I or shouldn’t I” when it comes to Eadric, which I think is a great change over the usual “And they all lived happily ever after.” I mean, it’s pretty obvious that Emma and Eadric will live happily ever after, but for once we’re seeing the journey to it.

Rating: 5/5

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

Passages/Quotes:

Eadric had waited for me at the water’s edge. He was frowning, and I knew he wasn’t in a good mood. “Grassina was right when she said you should work on your spells. What were you thinking of with that last one? Winged creature? You could have called up anything from a gnat to a dragon!”

“I was trying to call a bird.”

“Some bird!” he said.

“At least I tried! I didn’t see you doing anything to save us.”

~Baker 55

“Sword, what’s your name?”

Light flashed on the blade as it began to sing.

My name is Ferdinand,

But you can call me Ferdy.

I’ve been told I sing too much,

I am a little wordy.

“My sword’s name is Ferdy? What kind of name is that for a sword?”

“I think it’s a nice name,” said Li’l. It’s kind of friendly.”

“A sword’s name shouldn’t be friendly! It should be elegant and powerful, a strong name for a strong weapon!”

~Baker 179

 Overall Review:

Dragon’s Breath is quite a charming book, and in many ways improves upon The Frog Princess simply by making everything bigger, in a sense. Ralf the dragon was adorable, and Emma had some truly awesome moments both pre- and post-Green Witch. What happened to Grassina is a bit sad, but sure to come out all right in the next book, which is obviously going to be about breaking that curse.

You can buy this here: Dragon’s Breath (Tales of the Frog Princess)

Fairy Tale Friday: The Frog Princess

The Frog Princess is written by E. D. Baker. It was published in 2002 by Bloomsbury. Baker’s website can be found here.

Summary/Blurb:

“Princess Emeralda isn’t exactly an ideal princess. Her laugh sounds like a donkey’s bray rather than tinkling bells, she trips over her own feet more often than she gracefully curtsies, and she hates the young Prince Jorge whom her mother hopes she will marry. But if Emma, (as she is called), ever thought to escape from her frustrating life, she never expected it to happen by kissing a frog!

One kiss from this frog who calls himself Prince Eadric, and Emma’s whole life turns upside down…”

Thoughts:

So, apparently this book inspired the Disney film The Princess and the Frog. By “inspired,” I mean that Disney took the idea of the girl who kisses the frog turning into a frog (instead of the frog turning into a prince) and that’s pretty much it. The two really aren’t alike at all except for that.

I really enjoyed the twist of the kiss turning the girl/princess into a frog. It’s original, a great departure from the modern “Frog Prince” stories (interestingly enough, the original fairy tale had the frog turn back into a prince after the princess throws it against the wall, not through her kissing it), and is quite frankly a lot more interesting. It also allows more room for the princess to get involved in the action.

The characters were fresh (as in refreshing, not saucy) and funny and the world, though familiar in its magic and creatures, was not so familiar as to be boring or unoriginal. I loved the bat Li’l and the snake Fang; really, all the creatures Emma and Eadric run into are great.

While this is a stand-alone book, there are apparently a lot more books in the series and I’m looking forward to seeing where Baker takes Emma and Eadric next.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Fairy Tale

Passages/Quotes:

“Gross! Yuck!” I said, then spit until my mouth was dry.

“Good, huh?” asked Frog.

“Good? It was disgusting!” I wiped my tongue with my fingers trying to get rid of the taste.

“Be honest, now. What did it taste like?”

“Horrible!”

“Really?”

“Well,” I said reluctantly, “the plum was sour, but the fly was kind of sweet.”

“Ah-hah!” said Frog. “I knew you’d like it!”

~Baker 43

“You are the essence of beauty,” he began, his eyes raised adoringly to the nymph’s face. “You are my sun, my moon, my stars.”

“You’re a frog,” she said, noticing him at last. “I don’t talk to frogs.”

“I’m not just a frog.”

“You look like a frog to me,” she said, the tiniest frown wrinkling her flawless brow.

~Baker 123

Overall Review:

A delightful book all around. I love the twist on the original story, and Emma’s adventures with Eadric are fun and familiar and lend a type of charm to the whole book. Baker is quickly becoming my new favorite queen of fairy tales.

You can buy this here: The Frog Princess (Tales of the Frog Princess)