fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsDandelion Fire by N.D. Wilson children't fantasy audiobook reviewsDandelion Fire by N.D. Wilson

Dandelion Fire is the second book in N.D. Wilson’s 100 CUPBOARDS trilogy for children. In the first book, 100 Cupboards, we met Henry, a boy who went to live with his aunt and uncle in Kansas and discovered 100 oddly-shaped doors behind the plaster in his attic bedroom. There are different worlds behind all those doors and toward the end of the book Henry finally gets into one and inadvertently sets free an evil witch queen. I thought this was a great premise, and I liked Henry, but I was disappointed that so little time was spent exploring the other worlds.

At the beginning of Dandelion Fire, Henry is about to be sent home to live with the overprotective but unloving parents who adopted him when he was a baby. He knows, though, that he was born in the world behind one of the doors in his bedroom. Wondering if (and hoping that) his “real” family is still alive and missing him, he goes into that world to look for them. His curious cousin Henrietta follows him because she knows her father (Henry’s Uncle Frank) also originally came from behind the cupboard doors. When a bad wizard blasts Uncle Frank and Aunt Dotty’s house out of Kansas, that forces them, and Henry’s friend Zeke and a local policeman, to retreat into the cupboards. That’s how they all end up in the middle of a war involving that evil witch queen, her minions, and some funny faeries.

Dandelion Fire is better than its predecessor because it mostly takes place in the fantasy world behind the doors, unlike the first book which spent little time there. I’m still disappointed that there are not 100 unique fantasy worlds behind the 100 doors, which is what I was expecting based on the title of this series. I was hoping we’d be visiting numerous unique worlds instead of just one. In that sense, this series is similar to NARNIA where there is an evil witch queen, her minions, and the good guys in a parallel world that can be entered and exited at will, if you know how. Also like NARNIA, there is a bit of Christian allegory going on but, at least in this book, you won’t notice it unless you look for it.

Though Dandelion Fire is more interesting than 100 Cupboards, and though many of Henry’s questions are answered, there are frequent moments when it definitely feels like a middle book. The pace sometimes lags and toward the end there’s a sense that things are finally winding up for the finale which takes place in book three, The Chestnut King.

As far as the language goes, sometimes it is quite lovely, especially in the descriptive passages, though I can’t say that Wilson’s world, or the events happening in it, are always adequately described. There is not always a complete sense of place. The narrative also tends to be choppy in places. Fortunately, Russell Horton, the narrator of the audio version I listened to, helps even this out and I rarely noticed except for when I was specifically listening for it.

The strengths of this series so far is Henry’s appealing characterization, his sweet relationship with his uncle’s family, his concern about who he really is and what will be expected of him, and the occasional quirky sense of humor. I especially enjoyed Wilson’s amusing faeries. The trilogy will appeal mostly to children, its target audience, but it has more crossover potential than many children’s series I’ve read. It is gruesome in parts, though, so sensitive or easily frightened children should approach with caution.

Publication Date: February 10, 2009 | Age Level: 9 – 12 | Grade Level: 4 – 7. Henry York never dreamed his time in Kansas would open a door to adventure—much less a hundred doors. But a visit to his aunt and uncle’s farm took an amazing turn when cupboard doors, hidden behind Henry’s bedroom wall, revealed themselves to be portals to other worlds. Now, with his time at the farm drawing to a close, Henry makes a bold decision—he must go through the cupboards to find the truth about where he’s from and who his parents are. Following that trail will take him from one world to another, and ultimately into direct conflict with the evil of Endor.

100 Cupboards — (2007-2008) Ages 9-12. Publisher: Twelve-year-old Henry York wakes up one night to find bits of plaster in his hair. Two knobs have broken through the wall above his bed and one of them is slowly turning… Henry scrapes the plaster off the wall and discovers cupboards of all different sizes and shapes. Through one he can hear the sound of falling rain. Through another he sees a glowing room — with a man pacing back and forth! Henry soon understands that these are not just cupboards, but portals to other worlds. 100 Cupboards is the first book of a new fantasy adventure, written in the best world-hopping tradition and reinvented in N. D. Wilson’s inimitable style.

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  • Kat Hooper

    KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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