129. The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell

Paperback | 480 Pages

Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books 31st May 2018

This is the story of a young boy Wizard and a young girl Warrior who have been taught since birth to hate each other like poison; and the thrilling tale of what happens when their two worlds collide.

Perfect for boys and girls who love fantasy adventure…

Once there was Magic, and the Magic lived in the dark forests. Until the Warriors came…

Xar is a Wizard boy who has no Magic, and will do anything to get it. Wish is a Warrior girl, but she owns a banned Magical Object, and she will do anything to conceal it.

In this whirlwind adventure, Xar and Wish must forget their differences if they’re going to make it to the dungeons at Warrior Fort.

Where something that has been sleeping for hundreds of years is stirring…

This book has been on my shelf for countless months and I finally got around to beginning it on a Saturday evening in November. From the start of the first page, I knew that I was going to be reading something special. I knew that the characters I’d encountered were going to go on and do extraordinary things and I knew that the level of imagination and creativity was going to be very high. I never read Cowell’s ‘How to Train a Dragon’ series, I was well into my teens when it came out, so this was my introduction to her work and writing style. My biggest excitement to read this came on Sunday, when my nephew was round for lunch and excitedly announced that he was reading the ‘Wizards of Once’. His eyes lit up to hear that I was reading the same book as him and it is the first time I have seen him so animated about a book. He is seven. His excitement made me more eager to read the book – I actually finished it on Sunday afternoon once he’d left.

This was very easy to read and full of imagination and beautiful illustrations. I felt like I was being invited to a prestigious party when reading and I only got more invested the longer I read.

It’s funny because, if I’d met Xar in a young adult book or even an adult book, I would have found him irritating and repulsive and as a character without a redeeming quality. However, presented as he was in this children’s fantasy, I found myself overlooking the aspects of his character that caused me mild irritation and focused on the fact that as a character, he started weak and without consequence or moral and ended up on a journey that began to change what he saw and how he acted. There is still a long way for the character to go but with books 2 & 3 already out, I have no doubt that they explore the continuing growth of the character.

By comparison, I found Wish’s character to be meaningful and deep. A wisp of a girl who didn’t know her full potential until it was slammed up against her face. The character growth of her in this book sent her from being meek and curious, to adventurous and heroic. I am interested to see what path she takes, based off the climactic ending of this book.

The rival groups, the Wizards and the Warriors, fighting against each other reminds me of many a book, fanfiction and real life memories. Nothing good comes from parents that fight with each other. I have many theories regarding the King of the Wizards and the Queen of the Warriors, and I can see that there are many paths in which their course could take them. Time will tell whether their destined path is one that I have predicted myself or not!

It was very easy to visualise what was happening in this book. As I mentioned above, the illustrations were fantastic and lent me a picture of the creatures I had names for but no visual picture. Between the illustrations and the descriptions/details of the book, I was able to construct a vivid picture of all that was happening.

Job well done. Seriously. I never know what I’m going to get with a children’s book and which was the story will go and how I will receive it. I kind of liked that I had no prior knowledge of Cowell’s work and was able to read this without expectations. I thoroughly enjoyed the mix of written word and illustrations, they really ran side-by-side with each other and worked in perfect harmony to create the story. It was an unexpected factor for me and one that made reading this book more magical.

It was left pretty open ended so I think there are a lot of ways that the story could explore going forward. It will be interesting to see where the story goes and how the characters develop. I would like to read the two other books in this series because I got a lot joy out of this.

I was surprised by my level of enjoyment with reading this book. I wasn’t expecting to find myself so overwhelmed with happiness over the story, characters or level of imagination and creativity. I judged this book as being a typical fantasy genre, I don’t know how to pin it down more than that. I was originally drawn to the cover and then I thought the blurb was interesting enough to buy the book! I definitely don’t regret buying it!

There’s a table in the Waterstones I visit, in the 9-12 Children’s section, which always has ‘buy 1 get 1 half price’ books on it. I always gravitate towards it when I’m looking for a new book to sink my teeth into or a book to revive me from my latest crime/thriller book! So far, I haven’t found a dud from this table. Wizards of Once was on this table. I’ve purposefully stopped walking into bookshops this close to Christmas, but I’ll definitely be walking into one to get the next two books in this series in the new year!!

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