The Wizards of Once: The Wizards of Once #1 by Cressida Cowell

The Wizards of Once: The Wizards of Once #1 by Cressida Cowell

Cressida Cowell comes to the blog today with the first in her new series The Wizards of Once. This is narrated by David Tennant, and while the book is a middle grade story, it’s truly an entertaining listen for all ages, particularly 8 and up.

The Wizards of Once

Welcome to the world of Once: where the Warrior clan and the Wizard clan have been at odds for as long as anyone can remember, no one even knows the reasons why. The Wizard clam is a repository for all things magical, the Warrior clan hates everything magical, branding it dangerous and deadly and ‘not quite right’. Between the two kingdoms is the forest, named the Badwoods. A dangerous place where the now-extinct witches once lived, a looming place of darkness and shadows, forbidden to the children of both clans. But Xar, son of the King of the Wizards and Wish, daughter of the Queen of the Warriors are nothing if not different from their parents. Xar is still without his magic, even though he should have his powers before now – with a headstrong and rather arrogant air, he’s determined to capture a witch with a feather he found, unconvinced that they are gone, and plans to take the magic for himself. On the other side there is Wish, tiny and rather unimpressive with an eye-patch, an assistant bodyguard with narcolepsy, a pet spoon (yes, you read that right) and a sword that she ‘claimed’ from the floor in the hall, a sword of iron with an inscription and some rather unusual powers. With Wish’s mother the enemy of al things magical, and her spoon in danger of having it’s magic removed, she’s just unwilling to accept the “this is the ways it has always been”, or follow the many rules, despite the fact that she is desperate for her mother’s approval.

These two, with a cast of supporting characters including Xar’s raven Caliburn who is constantly trying to insert caution and sense into Xar, the giant Crusher – a vegetarian who is prone to thinking “big thoughts’ and not particularly fierce unless you are a snacking tree, the sprites from Xar’s camp – with their rather bloodthirsty mob mentality and Bodkin, the assistant bodyguard for wish who may as well be reciting the rules to an empty room as Wish rarely, if ever, listens to his advice. When Wish, her pony, spoon and Bodkin are ‘captured’ by Xar and his people, the clear polarization of their beliefs makes for some interesting ‘back and forth’ between them, but Wish isn’t very impressed with the arrogant and boastful Xar, prone to asking ‘why’ and ‘how’, and with her spoon that she wishes to protect, is determined to convince Xar to help her and Bodkin sneak back into the castle without arousing the adults to bring a war. And, there’s mysterious green blood, instantly thought of as belonging to a witch by Xar, on the tip of the sword that Xar has claimed as his due as the “boy of destiny” as mentioned in the legends. Oh there’s plenty of back and forth, and lots of assumptions made on both sides about the others – but as we are told “fear turns to anger as it so often does’. With adventures, plenty of ominous and potentially disastrous events in the future, and some threads closed and tied off while others are ongoing, the story is sure to appeal to readers who like adventures and not quite ‘typical’ characters that manage to feel plausible even in the most magical of circumstances. At nearly four hundred pages, it’s a solid read in consecutive nights book to share, with plenty of moments where description overrides forward motion and brings the world into focus, and with all of Cowell’s worlds, this isn’t one to miss.

Narration for this book is provided by David Tennant, and if you’ve never listened to an audiobook, this is the one to try. There’s nothing like immersing yourself in the story with voices for each character being distinct and unique, the slight Scottish burr that carries through adding a ‘fairy tale-like’ impression to the story, and the lovely changes as the narrator of the story provides a bit of insight, moves the plot along, and often adds snarky commentary, description and some clever moments that deliver (or not) the message. Tennant is one of my all-time favorite narrators, his ability to enhance the story with a sense of joy in the words and events as they unfold, keeping listeners engaged and wanting more. With a cliffhanger ending that leaves plenty of room for more development and change for the two clans, not to mention Xar and Wish, and the much put-upon Bodkin trying to make sense out of his ever-errant charge and her inability to acknowledge, let alone follow, the rules he’s so fond of reciting, the moments and lessons come subtly but all have to do with understanding and learning about the world in which you live before you accept or allow fear of new and different to constrain your actions. Perfect for a road trip or those rainy (or snowy) housebound afternoons – this Odyssey Award Honoree recording is not to be missed.

Stars: Overall 4 Narration 5 Story 4

The Wizards of Once: The Wizards of Once #1 by Cressida Cowell

Title: The Wizards of Once
Author: Cressida Cowell
Series: The Wizards of Once #1
Also in this series: Twice Magic
Genre: Action / Adventure, Children's Literature, Fantasy / Urban Fantasy, Magic, Middle Grade Fantasy
Narrator: David Tennant
Published by: Hachette Audio, Little Brown Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 144493670
Published on: 3 October, 2017
Source: Hachette Audio
Pages: 393
Audio Length: 5 Hours: 56 minutes
Rated: four-stars
Get Your Copy: Amazon Barnes&Noble iTunes Kobo Downpour IndieBound Book Depository GoogleAudible
See this Title on Goodreads

This is the story of a young boy Wizard and a young girl Warrior who have been taught to hate each other like poison; and the thrilling tale of what happens when their two worlds collide.

Perfect for boys and girls who love fantasy adventure ...

Once there was Magic, and the Magic lived in the dark forests.

Wizard boy, Xar, should have come in to his magic by now, but he hasn't, so he wants to find a witch and steal its magic for himself. But if he's got any chance of finding one, he will have to travel into the forbidden Badwoods.

Xar doesn't realise he is about to capture an entirely different kind of enemy. A Warrior girl called Wish.

And inside this book, at this very moment, two worlds collide and the fate of the land is changed forever.

Xar and Wish must visit the dungeons at Warrior fort, and face the evil Queen.

But something that has been sleeping for hundreds of years is stirring ...

A copy of this title was provided via Hachette Audio for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.


About Cressida Cowell

Cressida Cowell grew up in London and on a small, uninhabited island off the west coast of Scotland. She was convinced that there were dragons living on this island, and has been fascinated by dragons ever since.

She has a BA in English Literature from Oxford University, a BA in Graphic Design from St Martin's and an MA in Narrative Illustration from Brighton.

Cressida loves illustrating her own work, but also loves writing books for other people to illustrate as the end result can be so unexpected and inspiring. Cressida has written and illustrated eight books in the popular Hiccup series. The unique blend of child centred humour and sublime prose made Hiccup an instant hit.

How to Train Your Dragon is now published in over 30 languages. A DreamWorks Animation feature film is out in March 2010. Also the author of picture books, Cressida has won the Nestle Children's Book Prize 2006 and has been shortlisted for many others.

Cressida lives in Hammersmith with her husband and three children.


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