Calling on Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede is the third book in The Enchanted Forest Chronicles. The story here not only manages to elaborate on the existing world created in the previous two books but also raises the stakes, making the reading of the fourth book a necessity. It’s very similar in ending to The Two Towers or “The Empire Strikes Back” as there is no real closure. Just to give you a fair warning, there are spoilers for the first two books and mild spoilers for this book (though I have tried to keep those to a minimum and will warn you when I get to that point).
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Building on the foundation established by the first two books in the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, the third book in the series, Calling on Dragons, picks up about fourteen months after the ending of Searching for Dragons and the wedding of King Mendanbar and Princess, now Queen, Cimorene.
Like the previous two books, we can only see into the mind of our protagonist and Wrede gives us a new voice this time around, that of Morwen the Witch. This is quite a fun twist, because not only do we get to see familiar characters like Cimorene, Mendanbar and Kazul through Morwen’s eyes, we are also able to communicate with her cats.
In Wrede’s world, witches have cats to assist with their spells and run reconnaissance missions. While witches most only have one or two cats, as we know from previous books, Morwen has nine. These cats are given distinct voices and personalities in this novel, in a way that they couldn’t have before (because cats can only talk to their own witches). This gives the book an added dose of humor, as the cats are hilarious.
Telling the story through Morwen’s eyes also adds revelations about a group we haven’t seen much of so far, the witches. We learn about their culture and practices in this fictional world and, although we don’t know how big of a role they will play later on, it’s nice to fill in some gaps in this fictional world.
In Calling on Dragons, the wizards have firmly declared themselves against both the dragons in the Mountains of Morning and the Enchanted Forest, and the other two kingdoms have formed an alliance against them.
Morwen and her cats, Murgatroyd, Fiddlesticks, Miss Eliza Tudor, Scorn, Jasmine, Trouble, Jasper Darlington Higgins IV, Chaos, and Aunt Ophelia, live in their home in the Enchanted Forest with relatively little bother. The Forest has been fairly peaceful since King Mendanbar and Telemain sent the wizards packing, and those pesky wizards have not been seen since.
There is even more happy, though secret, news: Cimorene and Mendanbar are going to have a baby. They haven’t made the official announcement yet, which will later turn out to be very handy. Morwen does have one major annoyance, however. There is a meddler, Arona Michaelear Grinogion Vamist (from now on, just called Vamist) who is very determined that everything and everyone should act properly, particularly the witches.
Vamist has, with this emphasis on correct behavior, made a pest of himself to the local witches in the area, particularly in regard to their garden club. At the beginning of the book, Morwen provides an elegant solution, showing her to be a diplomat and also contrasting her with other witches in this world. This highlights her uniqueness as well as giving more information about this group of women. Vamist will also be important later on in the novel and features as a thread weaving throughout the rest of the plot.
Shortly after, a disturbance in the Forest is discovered in the form of a giant rabbit named Killer. As it turns out, he has eaten some enchanted clover, made magical by wizards, and grown to a ridiculously large size for a rabbit. After calling her friend Telemain and bringing him out to the site of the enchantment to investigate the possibility of wizards, Morwen leads Telemain, Killer and several of the cats to the castle to consult with Mendanbar and Cimorene.
This book is very entertaining because of the cat’s asides to Morwen and to each other. No other human can hear them, so they can say what they want to, and they often do. Trouble and Scorn, the cats we see most of, particularly love to make fun of Killer. As the novel progresses, Killer eats enough magical produce to turn into a flying, blue and insubstantial donkey, something the cats find hilarious and that ends up being quite useful later on.
As the plot unfolds, we learn that wizards have begun sucking up parts of the Enchanted Forest. Because of a safeguard that Mendanbar and Telemain set up in the last book, this shouldn’t be possible. As long as Mendanbar and his enchanted sword are in the Forest, none of the magic can be sucked out, or at least, that’s how the spell is supposed to work.
Of course, Mendanbar and Telemain want to check the spell, but when Mendanbar goes to get the sword, it’s gone; the wizards have gotten into the palace and stolen it. Since Mendanbar is the only thing now keeping the Forest safe, and no one outside the royal family can actually touch the sword without extreme pain once it’s been out of the Forest for a few days, Cimorene has to go on the quest to retrieve it. If they don’t, the sword will leak magic from the Forest to the Wizards directly.
Just writing that last paragraph makes me hope Wrede explains a bit more about the sword in the fourth book; it seems like a very complicated system and one that she hasn’t completely revealed yet.
Morwen, Telemain, Kazul, Cimorene, Killer, Trouble and Scorn set out to retrieve the sword from the wizards. On the way, they meet Brandel, a fire-witch, and he and Morwen discover that they have an enemy in common. During their quest, several unfortunate things occur. Telemain becomes injured during a transportation spell and later, to Cimorene’s concern, she is unable to reach Mendanbar at home. She sends Kazul back to check things out while the rest of them continue with the quest for the sword.
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After several close shaves for quite a few characters and establishing that Vamist was working with the Wizards the whole time, Morwen and Company manage to retrieve the sword and head home. When they do arrive home, they find themselves in the midst of cleanup from a battle.
It turns out that, when Cimorene sent Kazul back to check on the Forest, Kazul found the Wizards attacking the castle. Flying to the Mountains of Morning for reinforcements, Kazul and the dragons were joined by the fire-witches and the citizens of the Enchanted Forest to fight the Wizards.
Sadly, the wizards have trapped Mendanbar in the castle. He is alive but is also out of action for the time being. To prevent anyone from saving him, the Wizards put up a giant shield around the palace to prevent anyone but the wizards from entering. However, the dragons were able to put up their own shield around that, keeping everyone out.
In the end, it all comes down to the magic sword, the only thing that can break the Wizard’s shield, and since no one but Mendanbar and his heir can wield said sword, everyone has to wait until the baby is born and proves himself or herself to the Forest.
Like I said, this sword is very strange and complicated, with lots of weird loopholes and bylaws. I look forward to learning more about it later on in the fourth book.
Calling on Dragons ends with Cimorene hiding the sword in the Forest and then taking baby Daystar out of the Forest until he’s old enough to wield it. I assume the fourth book, Talking to Dragons, picks up when he is. Calling on Dragons has a deeply dissatisfying ending, but is a satisfying read as there is hope for resolution in the next book.
The addition of the witches and fire-witches also adds a lot to the story, and not just in terms of world-building. The fact that Vamist is, with assistance from the Wizards, the reason the fire-witches were exiled from their home gives the fire-witches a reason to ally with the Dragons in the final battle. The wizards gave their worst enemies a very powerful ally; something I find delightfully ironic.
Something I like about this series is the way the novels build on each other. We’re learning a little bit more about all three of these groups, Dragons, Wizards and Enchanted Forest Dwellers, as each book goes on. This then gives readers more of an insight into their interactions with each other.
The romance in this novel is understated, mostly because it’s not the focus of the story, saving the Enchanted Forest is. However, there are a few romantic inklings. From seeing Morwen’s thoughts, readers wonder if she might feel something more for our favorite magician Telemain, and Morwen’s cat Scorn meets Brandel’s handsome cat, Horatio.
Our established romantic pair, Cimorene and Mendanbar, doesn’t have much page time, but they are an adorable couple in the scenes they do share. When they are talking to each other using magic, Trouble the cat has to leave because they’re too mushy. They argue like regular couples do, but Wrede makes it very clear that they love each other very much and want to keep the other safe.
Because I love to see an established, healthy, and happy married relationship in literature, I went ahead and gave this book a five romance-wise. The lengths that Cimorene goes through to save Mendanbar and the way he tries to protect her shows the depth of their affection for each other and is the probably the sweetest thing in the book.
Overall, this is a solid installment to a fantastic series, and one that makes you want to pick up the fourth volume as soon as possible. Basically, it does what I think every good third book in a quartet should, it raises the stakes and gives you enough of the story so that you’re invested, but not enough so that you can guess the outcome.
At the risk of saying exactly what I said about the first two books, I think this would be an amazing third entry in a delightfully whimsy-filled quartet of films. I think that, with modern technology, the dragons and other enchanted aspects of the film could be portrayed on screen in a more realistic sense. I would love to see the fire-witches brought to life, and I think Killer would be amazing to see on the big screen, particularly with his many changes. And, as before, I have some casting ideas! I still want Jemima West as Cimorene, Colin Morgan as Mendanbar, Emma Thompson as the voice of Kazul, Emma Stone as Morwen, Sam Neill as Willan (or Zemenar. I still feel like he could pull off both parts) and Charlie Cox as Telemain.
This third film would be interesting, because so many members of the new cast would be the voices of cats. New additions that I have in mind include Rupert Grint as Brandel, David Tennant as the voice of Killer, Antorell as played by Andrew Garfield, and I have voices for five of the nine cats. These are Eva Green as Scorn, Ben Barnes voicing Trouble, Kelly McDonald as Aunt Ophelia, Anne Hathaway as Miss Eliza and Josh Gad as Fiddlesticks.
“You had me at hello.”
“You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. I have loved none but you.”
What do you think? Where would you put Sam Neill? Who would be a perfectly villainous Arona Michaelear Grinogion Vamist? And who would you cast to voice all the cats (particularly Jasper, Jasmine, Chaos, and Murgatroyd)?
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