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The Wizards of Once Hardcover – 19 Sep 2017
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World-conquering (The Guardian)
The first volume of a new series by author and illustrator of the How to Train Your Dragon series is an event....Funny, thoughtful and surprisingly wise and lively, this is another coup from Cowell (The Sunday Times)
Cowell's latest work offers a fully realized fantasy world abounding with witches, sprites, killer plants, and talking ravens. Her scrappy teenage protagonists are wonderfully flawed and almost scarily realistic in their bravery, selfishness, and desire to please their parents yet not surrender their individuality. The omniscient narrator's voice is pitch-perfect, sounding appropriately young without ever talking down to the target audience. Readers will fall in love with the imaginative worldbuilding and humorous dialogue and asides....A delightful magical romp. (Kirkus Reviews)
The detail of Cowell's world is a delight...This one will run and run. (The Observer)
I am pleased to report that The Wizards of Once...is terrific. It introduces us to a new fantasy world, though its roots again lie deep in a familiar mulch of history and legend. Not the Norse myths this time, but a fantasia of ancient Britain, a land of dark, mysterious forests and powerful magic. What follows is a rollercoaster of suspense and surprise...The book has all the familiar Cowell trademarks. The story never flags, even at moments of calm and reflection, and the writing has humour, grit and depth. She provides her own illustrations, and their scratchy style and scribbled annotations strike the right note. It all adds up to a beautifully designed hardback volume. (The Guardian)
... sustain a sense of wonder and mayhem from start to finish. Cowell skillfully mixes adventure with silliness in a satisfying story for younger fantasy fans. (Publishers Weekly)
... it is by turns grim, poignant, philosophical and terrifying, woven through with Cowell's slapstick humour. (The Times Literary Supplement)
An exciting and promising start... A fantastical adventure ensues, filled with mythical beasts, cliff-hangers and an epic struggle between good and evil (The Scotsman)
bristles with rambunctious energy and humour, and feels as if it has been slapped down on the page with glee and mischief....its characters, Xar the wizard who has no magic, and Wish the warrior princess, who happens to have a magic spoon, are irresistible. (Herald Scotland)
I loved The Wizards of Once. Of course! The new world Cowell has created is just as vivid...There's plenty of magic in Cowell's wild woods and it rises from the pages fresh and clear and with fizzling energy... And it's funny, as you'd expect. Cheerfully funny with daft jokes and slapstick and sharp dialogue... The underlying theme is one of tolerance of difference. She writes with empathy and encourages it in her readers that way. So much better to let kids come to their own conclusions once you've gently pointed them in the right direction. I think this is one reason why Cowell is so popular - there is a trust between author and reader that both feel and respect. (The Book Bag)
From the bestselling author of How to Train Your Dragon comes an exciting high-adventure series - set in an ancient, magical time, full of Wizards, Warriors, Giants and Sprites.See all Product description
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Xar and Wish are very, very different. Xar is confident and headstrong, foolish and selfish, and not particularly likeable for most of the book. He wants magic and doesn’t care how he gets it. And yet, there are times when a better person emerges – he does care about his friends, whether they’re sprites, animals or human, and there is some hope that he might eventually learn from all his numerous mistakes. (Maybe.)
Wish couldn’t be more different. She’s uncertain and strange, shy and hesitant, yet really nice. She isn’t a natural Warrior because she tends to ask questions and not accept the her mother’s rules just because she should. She’s smart too and friendly. I liked her a lot and loved seeing her grow stronger through the book.
Alongside these two are plenty of friends – from assistant bodyguard Bodkin, to friendly giant Crusher, along with snowcats and sprites, that cute magic spoon and poor put-upon Caliburn, the talking raven who is charged with the impossible task of keeping Xar sensible. We also see two very different parents in the leader of the Wizards and the leader of the Warriors, ruling over a wild wooded world full of fun details and scary threats.
I really enjoyed this – the characters, the plot, the illustrations – the whole book was a joy to read. It’s exciting and silly at times, dangerous and dark at others, but once started I didn’t want to put it down. So if you have any magic or adventure loving children in your life, hand them a copy of this. I’m pretty sure they’ll enjoy it too. I can’t wait to read the next one.
I was keen to read this book to him and as a family we did a chapter (or two) a night all together reading aloud. We absolutely loved it.
As always the wonderful thing is how Cressida writes with lines like, "once there was Magic" and "a British Isles so old it didn't know it was the British Isles yet". Perfect writing and so engaging.
In this book we meet Xar who is waiting for his Magic to manifest itself which should happen when he is about 12 but...he is 13 and no Magic has yet arrived. Then we have Wish, a little girl full of Magic and trying desperately to hide it.
Beyond that we have the wonderful array of characters and creatures which always appear in Cressida's books. The strange, the mad, the bad and the plain old eccentric are all here and as wonderful as ever.
Like the previous books this one is richly illustrated with pen and ink drawings which just adds to the delight of the story.
We have also enjoyed Cressida's previous books being read by the unique David Tennant. I found myself reading this book and imagining how David might voice a particular character. What accent would they have etc? Happily the audiobook is already available and it's been downloaded ready for us to listen ....well worth having both.
The story revolves around the conflict of a young wizard boy, named Xar, whose magic has not yet arrived at the expected age, and a warrior girl, named Wish, who is all too keen to cover up the fact that she has magic and a wish which brings them together. The novel is set in Ancient Britain, a land of forests, magic, giants and really scary witches… The illustrations are a little dark, so this is probably best for children aged 8+ and it has lots of appeal to both boys and girls.
This is obviously going to be one of a series and my daughter is keen to read on. She says that she liked the characters and setting very much and has noticed a few children in her year reading it, so I am sure this will be a great success. At nearly 400 pages, it is for confident readers, but the illustrations help make this an excellent choice for children and great fun to read aloud.
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