There’s a cosy old-fashioned charm to this fourth book in Vivian French’s Tales of the Five Kingdoms series. This is a world filled with genuinely good people, like the Trueheart Gracie Gillypot and the adventure-seeking Prince Marcus, who set out to find a lost dragon’s egg before evil forces – especially the terrifying Old Malignancy – get their hands on it.
Possibly because Gracie and Marcus are already the clear heroes (particularly for anyone who’s read the earlier books), the most interesting characters are the ones who are a little more difficult. Princess Fedora’s quest to live by an old-fashioned handbook when dealing with her servants is by turns amusing and dangerous, but even the villains must admit that she has a will of steel. The Canker twins, Globula and Conducta, who grace the cover as well as several of the illustrations, are two of the most dreadful-yet-appealing characters in the book – born without hearts (no “stupid tears about icky-picky kittens with no whiskers” for these girls), their goal is to become “extremely rich as soon as possible” and eat lots of chocolate.
There’s never any real doubt that good will triumph over evil here, but the large cast of zany, fascinating characters – including a troll, several bats, an Ancient Crone or three, as well as the royalty of the Kingdoms – makes the story a very entertaining one. Readers looking for a humorous fantasy adventure story may want to give this one a try.