Monday, September 27, 2010

The Robe of Skulls by Vivian French

This is the first book in the Five Kingdoms series, and I gave it a rating of three out of five. A witch has the idea of turning princes and princesses into frogs and then asking their families for ransom money to change them back. A beautiful, but evil, young girl named Foyce offers to help, but she intends to cheat the witch in the end. Foyce's stepsister, Gracie, is the heroine in the story and is assisted by Marcus, a reluctant prince. The two of them are assisted by the Old Crones to stop the evil magic.

The idea of turning princes into frogs is as old as folk tales, but this plot evolves in a unique way. The witch wants the ransom to pay for a new dress. She has a troll for an assistant, but she literally knocks his head off when she gets angry. A bat named Marlon guides Marcus and Gracie throughout the adventure, and he offers some humorous dialogue with the characters. Unusual events and descriptions in the book provide some endearing qualities. The path to the home of the Old Crones happily greets Gracie when she first visits them, and the home seems to have a life of its own. A sleeping soup only works on evil people but does not harm those with true hearts. Old Crones' solution to the problem was enjoyable and creative.

I didn't enjoy the negativity in the first half of the book, and I considered not finishing it. I suppose it was necessary to develop the conflict, but it seemed like Gracie and Marcus were the only good people in the whole book who were not evil, shallow, or self-centered. The second half of the book was better and included some action as the plot built to the climax. I can see where this series might develop a following of readers, but I do not intend to read the second book at this time.

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