Calling on Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

Calling on Dragons by Patricia C. WredeWhen I was in elementary school I decided to write a book. It was basically a fantasy land where I could just make anything happen that I wanted to. Wolverine showed up at one point. There were gladiators, dragons, elves, spaceships with interdimensional aliens and an embarrassing amount of insanity. Then I got tired of writing — after about 400 pages or so — and I wrote a five page ‘ending.’ I made up a bad guy who had been behind all their troubles from the start — though they didn’t know this until now — and my heroes went and fought him in a not-so-epic battle. It was truly terrible.

That ending that I wrote, way back then, was better than the ending of this book.

The ending of this book is a time-traveling bear that rips through the previous narrative, tearing it to shreds until it is no longer an enjoyable book. Except there is no bear — that would be cool — and there is no time travel — that would be exciting — there is nothing.

This book seems to be dealing with the most adult themes of any in the series so far. Cimorene is pregnant, Fire Witches are being racially persecuted, wizards have actually developed a plot that makes them sound dangerous for once and there are not enough buckets of soapy water to melt them all. Add to that talking cats, a rabbit-turned-giant blue flying donkey and a quest for a magic sword and hilarity ensues.

Then it ends. (Spoilers follow if you’re worried about that.) That’s it, it just ends. Cimorene and company decide that the only solution to their problem is to wait until her child is born and grows up and saves them. There is no clever ploy, or even a Deus Ex Machina falling from the sky. They just give up and the book ends.

All of Wrede’s former strengths are out in full force. The magic is fascinating and amusing. It’s treated almost like a science, which I love. Most people who do magic just do it, they don’t know what’s going on. There is one character who obviously studies magic and talks about it using complex phrases and big words and sounds like he’s talking about physics. This reminds me of the real world.

I studied antennas as part of my Electrical Engineering degree. Antennas are complex and confusing and really hard to understand. The math alone involves greater than three dimensional integrals and some mind-blowing theory. I only got a very small part of it. Enter a local Ham Radio operator. He builds antennas himself, he knows how to boost his signal and how to change the gain and filter the noise and he does it all intuitively — he doesn’t know any of the math or the theory or physics. He just does it. If I needed an antenna I would ask him for help.

That is the way the magic in Wrede’s books works. Most people just use it and it works. Some of them study it and learn the theory and the math and make it very complicated and sometimes, maybe over think things.

Wrede has done something truly great with this series of books. Her protagonists are brilliant examples for both boys and girls and it’s all packed around an adventurous story filled with dry humor and even a little bit of parody thrown in.

You should read it, just be prepared for the ending, there will be scars.

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