Tales from the Five Kingdoms (Tales 1-4) by Vivian French
Since today is Independence Day, I figured the time is right to explore our colonial roots and see what one of the UK’s most beloved children’s authors is writing these days. With over 200 titles in print, Vivian French is probably best known for her international phenomenon The Tiara Club with 46 titles (not a typo!), which features a new breed of feisty royalty more in tune with the importance of celebrating inner individuality and never succumbing to peer pressure, than being worried about glitter and gold.
Most recently, French has ensconced herself in The Tales of the Five Kingdoms, a lively, giddy new series complete with an independent orphan, a promising prince, various witches (both evil and mild), a few crones (of the loveliest variety), multi-generational bat-guides, and even an endearing troll whose head just doesn’t want to stay on quite right.
The inaugural installment, The Robe of Skulls, debuted in 2008, and introduced readers to Gracie Gillypot whose Trueheart nature – kind, loving, forgiving – saves her from her abusive stepfather and dangerous stepsister. Her greatest ally is the valiant Prince Marcus of Gorebreath who is always in search of adventures, and the two are often aided by the intrepid Marlon Batster and his young protégés. By foiling the batrachian plans of greedy Lady Lamorna, Gracie wins the eternal devotion of a green troll named Gubble. And so the unlikely human/vespertilian/monster team becomes the Five Kingdoms’ best defense against evil!
In the second tale, The Bag of Bones, the team faces the mighty power of a high witch bent on all-kingdom domination, and in the third, Heart of Glass, the team must work together to re-establish peace underground just in time for a royal wedding.
The Five Kingdom’s fourth tale, The Flight of Dragons, which appears on American shelves this month, has the team searching for a mislaid 90-year-old dragon egg about to hatch any minute. The latest adventure is another page-turner, complete with a petulant princess, toothsome feasts, and heart-rattling challenges.
French’s writing is invitingly chatty, especially pitch-perfect for younger readers, as if she’s right there next to you, pulling you into one noble undertaking after another. Her background as a storyteller on the stage clearly comes through on the page … with each intriguing detail, she’ll have you repeatedly rooting for Gracie and her loyal companions, fighting greed, envy, destruction, and downright evil, while having one better adventure after yet another. That’s true independence indeed!
Readers: Middle Grade
Published: 2008-2011 (United States)