We'll start things off right with a fun little fairy tale. Once upon a time...
The Salamander SpellAuthor: E. D. Baker
Age Range: 10+
Cover Score: ****
Overall Grade: ****
Princess Grassina is the younger of 2 princess daughters of the King of Greater Greensward and his wife the good Green Witch. She's not as smart or composed as her older sister Chartreuse and is constantly struggling to find a way to shine outside of her sister's spotlight. When her mother falls prey to a curse which turns her into a cruel old hag and her father dies and becomes a ghost inhabiting the castle's dungeons she finds her chance.
Fleeing her mother's evil spells and her sister's cruel words she runs away from the castle to live in the surrounding swampland. There she meets Haywood, a young boy with magical abilities who has run away from his family's intolerance of his magic (who's ever heard of a nice wizard, after all?) He helps her discover her own hidden magic and together they practice their power and make it grow. She hears of a band of marauding werewolves terrorizing the countryside, headed toward the castle and vows to do what she can to help stop the onslaught. She and Haywood defeat the werewolves, encounter a Vila, stop a manticore and return peace to the kingdom. Grassina also comes into her full power and inherits the ring of the Green Witch from her cursed mother while Chartreuse reluctantly accepts that she has no magic, chooses a worthy husband and prepares to become queen.
This is a prequel to earlier books in the Tales of the Frog Princess series so while there are several questions left unanswered in this volume readers will find all the loose ends tied up in the additional installments. I've only read one other but Ms. Baker is a consistent writer with enough of a modern feel to her tales to make them easily accessible to young readers but with the familiar taste of a classic about them as well. This is a fun, newly imagined fairy tale sure to delight fans of magical creatures, princesses and light adventure.