Cimorene, the princess who refuses to be proper, is back—but where is Kazul the dragon? That’s what Cimorene is determined to find out. Luckily—or perhaps not-so-luckily—she’s got help; Mendanbar, the not-very-kingly King of the Enchanted Forest, has joined her in her quest. So with the aid of a broken-down magic carpet, a leaky magical sword, and a few buckets of soapy lemon water, they set off across the Enchanted Forest to tackle the dragon-napping and save the King of the Dragons.
I normally don’t like it when authors switch viewpoints, but I’ve always enjoyed the way Wrede changes the viewpoint character for each of the Enchanted Forest books. In Searching, we get to see Cimorene from another person’s point of view, which reveals some character flaws (a good thing) that weren’t as noticeable in Dealing, such as her impatience.
We also get introduced to Mendanbar, his sword, the gargoyle, and Telemain, all of whom I remember the most from previous readings of the books. The wizards returns as the main villain, and while that is a little tiresome, I understand why Wrede continuously brings them back—not just because the four books have a continuous plot arc, but because of something about the order of the books that I’ll discuss in my review of the last book, Talking to Dragons. So, I know why she does it, but at the same time, I wish something else besides a two-page encounter with rock snakes served to trip our heroes up a bit.
Rereading this book, it is now more obvious to me that Dealing with Dragons is really just set-up. It’s good, funny set-up, but still just set-up for what happens in the third and fourth books. Wrede’s twists on fairy-tales and Cimorene’s (and Mendanbar’s) practical ways to help those they come across just combine to make a really fun adventure. And Telemain’s technobabble is also a plus (Telemain in general is fantastic).
Another great thing about this book, and the series in general, is all the running jokes: Antorell’s ineptitude; Telemain’s technobabble as well as his incredibly inopportune “I want to study this magic” moments; and, of course, the run-ins with recognizable fairy-tale characters with backstories just slightly different than what we’re used to.
Recommended Age Range: 12+
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade
“Well?” she said in an exasperated tone. “Are you going to stand there like a lump, or are you going to tell me what you want? Although I think I already know.”
“Excuse me,” Mendanbar said. He pulled himself together and bowed uncertainly. “I think there’s been some sort of mistake. I’m looking for Kazul, the King of the Dragons.”
“I’ll bet you are,” the young woman muttered. “Well, you can’t have her. I handle my own knights and princes.”
“I beg your pardon?” Mendanbar said, blinking.
Searching for Dragons continues the charm and fun of Dealing while introducing new characters and new things for the heroes to worry about. There are still some flaws, like the fact that there’s noticeably (if you’ve read the series before) a lot of set-up for the third and fourth books, and as fun as it is, I still don’t like it as much as the next two books (one of the reasons why I gave it the same rating, 3 out of 5, as the first book). But I love what Wrede is doing with fairy tales references and the sensibility of the characters is great, too.