Friday, April 1, 2016

Fridays With the Wizards by Jessica Day George, 2016

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Celie and her friends and family are back in the Castle, safe and sound. But there's still the problem of Wizard Arkwright. What do you do with an evil wizard?
Especially when he escapes from his cell, but doesn't leave the Castle!
Now it's up to Celie, with the help of her wizard brother Bran and her griffins, to track down Arkwright and get rid of him for good!

(240 pages)

I enjoyed this fifth installment to the Castle Glower series, but I'm a little less enthusiastic about passing it on to my younger sister than I was with the other ones.

Mainly because (and I promise, this isn't really a spoiler) Lilah gets engaged. She spends a lot of the book either cooing in her fiance's arms or snapping at Celie for some minor reason or another, and while it's fine for older kids I thought that eleven-year-old girls might not want to read so much about the stresses of getting married. Also, Celie is worrying that she and Lilah will be leaving their home country for a while to go to Lilah's fiance's home, and she dreads the day Lilah will leave the Castle Glower for good. Add to that the potential romance with Pogue (who, we are told yet again, is constantly being drooled over by the nearby village girls) and it seems a little angst-heavy for a kid's book.

That said, I enjoyed it. My little sister aside, Fridays is a good book that I devoured in a single sitting. Is it as good as the other books? No, I don't think so - the quality of the series has slowly been declining from book to book. They started out so fun and engaging, though, that Fridays doesn't hurt all that much for it. I loved the side plots with the griffins, who are finally given center stage to shine (after all the mystery surrounding them for so long!). They do devolve into simple plot tools at some points, but on the whole they are very engaging.

The biggest trouble as this series goes along, I think, is that more and more of the Castle's magic is destroyed. No, it's not destroyed in the literal sense - inside the stories it stays intact and even flourishes as the books continue! What I mean is that as we continue to learn its secrets we lose the thrills of surprise and excitement that the first book brought. This downward trend in excitement began at the end of Wednesdays in the Tower (though that book itself was one of my favorites of the series), and the thrill is pretty much disappeared by now. Part of that might also be the fact that there's no real threat in this one - sure, Arkwright is running around somewhere, but I never felt any real sense of danger; everyone was more concerned about Lilah's wedding to spare much thought to the evil rogue wizard.

I'm sorry, I don't mean to be so negative about Fridays. It's not a terrible book, it really isn't, and I totally enjoyed reading it, but I think George has started to run out of ideas for what to do with the series. I'll still be looking forward to the next book in the series to see if she manages to find a fresh angle - because if anyone can do that, it's Jessica Day George! - but I'm not sure it's really going to happen.

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