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Middle Grade Monday – Don’t Call it a Quest!

If you get that reference, let me know in the comments.

What do you get when you combine:

  • the court mystician
  • a newly licensed wizard
  • a princess in the body of a handmaid
  • a disgraced former naval officer and current ornithologist
  • a twelve year old adventure guide
  • and 3 obnoxious adventure seekers?

Well, you get a quest into the Cambrian Empire to retrieve the kidnapped Once Magnificent Boo and a wizidrical energy focusing gemstone known as the Eye of Zoltar – BUT DON’T CALL IT A QUEST! All quests have to be approved by the International Questing Federation, cost an upfront payment of 2,000 moolah, and require you to include “a minimum staffing requirement: at least one strong-and-silent warrior, a sagelike old man, and quite possibly a giant and a dwarf too.”

In this newest installment in the Chronicles of Kazam series, Jennifer Strange, the newly minted wizard Perkins, and Her Royal Spoiltness the Princess Shazza journey to the Cambrian Empire to retrieve the Eye of Zoltar in order to save the world’s only two dragons (and themselves) from the evil wizard The Mighty Shandar. The Cambrian Empire’s economy is driven by adventure tourism where foreigners regularly risk life and limb for extreme experiences. The only tour guide who is willing to take on Jennifer’s group is twelve year old Addie, who guarantees a 50% survival rate for the journey (and she’s always right.) Addie is keen to pick up at least 4 more adventurers for their journey in order to secure the safe return of the original party, which is where the three obnoxious young men come in. On their way to find the ex-sorceror Able Quizzler, the last person known to have a lead on the Eye of Zoltar, they also pick up Wilson, an ornithologist and disgraced former naval officer who is on the hunt to redeem himself by making an extreme sacrifice (rather convenient.)

This installment in the series differs from the first two in that Jennifer is removed from her normal environment (Kazam Mystical Arts Management) and sent on a spectacular journey. New, vastly interesting characters are introduced, and we find out more about the diversity of the Ununited Kingdoms. The rest however, is a solid installment of what Fforde does best – an entertaining story full of twists, turns, and really funny throwaway jokes (he describes “an enchanted tent that swore angrily to itself when self-pitching, thus saving you the effort”) where every last detail is important. If it’s not important for this story, it will be in the future. This amazing attention to detail and constant seeding of information that becomes pivotal later is one of the reasons Fforde is my favorite author.

If you read and enjoyed the first two in the series, I definitely recommend picking this one up – it will be out in the US in October. If you haven’t read his books, I strongly recommend starting with the first in this series, The Last Dragonslayer.