Monday, December 3, 2018

Middle Grade Monday and Audiobook Review: Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell

Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell. Unabridged audiobook on 5 compact discs. 6 hours. Read by David Tennant. HarperAudio, 2017. 9781478922735. (Review of audio borrowed from public library. Own hard cover.)

For TMS fantasy fans, Middle Grade Monday features The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell. The setting for this engaging fantasy is prehistoric the British Isles ages before the time of King Arthur and the King Arthur legend is old, old, old. There were two feuding factions, the Wizards, who were magic and the Warriors, who were not. The Warriors mean to stomp out all magic once and for all. The Warrior Queen has a stone that can suck the magic out of any wizard, sprite, giant and all magical beings are terrified of being captured and losing their magic. What happens when one of the queen's daughters, an oddball Warrior princess named Wish, crosses paths with Xar, the Wizard king's non-magical son in the deep woods? The Wizards of Once is drolly told by an un-named, perhaps unreliable narrator who promises to return with more of the story. 

I must admit I have been avoiding fantasy for a while. Not sure why. I just checked my GR list for 2018 and I posted a fantasy in mid-October. The only thing I wrote about it was, "The violence in this was stunning." And I think that might be the issue. As I perused my list and picked out the fantasies, the violence was what I thought of first before characters or worldbuilding. Is this a thing? Admittedly, these were all YA fantasies. But still. Not that fairies and sprites are peaceful, mind you. 

The Wizards of Once is decidedly middle grade and it's rather delightful. We've got the obnoxious Xar who is all bluster and blame and the pitiable Wish, who just yearns for her Queen mother's affections. We've got delightful and delicious sidekicks that include a magicked iron spoon. We've got much laughter and surprisingly, a few tears. Finally, we've got illustrations! Something I discovered when I consulted my library copy. And they are wonderful.

Of course, David Tennant's performance is filled with a variety of voices and just the right amount of ham. What I could've done without, however, were the sound effects. Ugh! They often startled and added nothing to the story. In fact, they were downright distracting. This was my car audio and one effect (I think it was wind) made me nearly pull off the road because I thought it was my car breaking down! In retrospect, I'm surprised that the Odyssey committee didn't seem bothered by the effects as they bestowed an honor on the production. 

I think I will skip the audio for the next installment, Twice Magic. I also think I will get my fantasy mojo back by hanging out in middle grade fantasyland for awhile. Though, I must admit, Holly Black's Cruel Prince is beckoning.

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