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My son has been a huge fan of Cressida Cowell forever. He was genuinely upset when the  How To Train Your Dragon series was over, and he re-reads them all the time. The Wizards of Once is Cowell’s new series, and after having read it, I think he will love it. Possibly more than he loves How To Train Your Dragon.  He’d have already pinched it off me by now, but he’s on an outward bound holiday, so I got to read it uninterrupted.

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The story is set in a mythical, pre-Arthurian Britain in which magic and men are at war with each other. In the woods live the Wizards surrounded by sprites, elves, talking animals and giants.  In the fortress live the Warriors and their iron weapons that are intent on wiping out magic forever. Witches, the most evil creatures in the land, have already been wiped out and now the Wizards and their ilk are being hunted.

Except that everything is not quite as it seems. Xar is a Wizard. He’s thirteen, the youngest son of the chief Wizard. At thirteen, a wizard’s magic comes in. Except Xar has no magic yet. It does not stop him being wild and reckless and cooking up increasingly more risky plans to find a way to access his elusive gifts. One one of his adventures he bumps into Wish, the Warrior princess, daughter of the ruler of the Warriors. Wish is not meant to have any magic at all. She is meant to be a bloodthirsty and fearless fighter, and yet her destiny seems to be taking her in quite another direction altogether.

The two meet and in doing so, discover that Witches might not be quite so extinct as everyone had imagined.

This is a splendid adventure. It’s beautifully realised, with the most marvellous, atmospheric illustrations by Cowell. It’s funny and dark, adventurous and thoughtful and  full of promise for the rest of the books in the series to follow. The characters are great, and I loved every last bit of it. It would be a brilliant book to read aloud at bedtime or to a class, and I think those who are already fans of Cowell’s work will love it, and those who are introduced to her through this, will be smitten. Perfect for children aged seven and up.

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