The Wizards of Once
The much-anticipated return of the author of the How to Train Your Dragon series throws us into a world of wizards, warriors and witches, all battling for their place in an ancient forest. Xar is the son of a great enchanter, but craves magic of his own. Wish is the daughter of a warrior queen, but doesn't seem to be much of a fighter. When the two meet, they accidentally unleash the power of the witches, thought long-dead, and set of a chain of events that will throw both their tribes into chaos. Expect characteristic Cowell energy, eccentricity, magic, and humour. The fantastic array of new characters include Squeezjoos the hairy fairy, Crusher the philosophical giant and Caliburn the cautious crow.
Story aside, I'd really like to celebrate the magnificence of the illustrations. While you still get the frenetic scribbling used to great effect in the first of the Dragon books, this has mingled with a more realistic style incorporating scratchy, scrubby printing processes. Just take a look at this Sprite! It reminds me of Victorian illustrators like Arthur Rackham, and maybe there's a bit of Charles Keeping's inky darkness in there as well. Any lover of illustration, child or adult, will find themselves pulled willingly into the forest via its atmospheric imagery.
When you think that How to Train Your Dragon was such a vast series (spanning twelve books and spawning three films, a TV series, etc.) I can almost imagine that at the mere sight of yet another dragon, poor Cressida would exclaim, like Ripley in the fourth Alien film, 'You've been in my life so long, I can't remember anything else.' But she seems to have coped and found new and fertile ground. There's so much more to discover with Xar and Wish. Come and take a step into the forest at the start of their journey.