Fridays with the Wizards is the fourth and most recent book in Jessica Day George’s CASTLE GLOWER series about twelve year old Princess Celie and the magical, semi-sentient castle where she lives. Celie and her brother and sister and friends have just returned from an unexpected adventure in another land, as related in the previous two books in the series, Wednesdays in the Tower and Thursdays with the Crown, where they tangled with the local wizards, befriended the king and queen of the griffins, and searched for the missing piece of a magical device called the Eye of the Castle. As they finally relax in Celie’s beloved castle, along with the couple of dozen griffins they brought back with them, the only thing disturbing Celie’s peace is her seventeen-year-old sister Lilah’s growing romance with their guest Prince Lulath of Grath, which prompts Lilah to pressure the reluctant Celie to come visit the country of Grath with Lilah and Lulath.
But more trouble soon raises its head: the ancient and powerful wizard Arkwright, who caused so much trouble during their prior adventures, has escaped from the dungeon and is lurking somewhere on the grounds of the castle, but in hidden passageways where the castle can’t alert King Glower to the wizard’s location. As the royal family realizes that Arkwright’s plans may prove dangerous to their country and deadly to them, it becomes a race to find Arkower ― before he finds them. Much of Fridays with the Wizards is spent with the characters ineffectively chasing around in dark passageways of the castle trying to find the missing wizard, with some of the searchers disappearing and others using magic to try to trap the wizard.
The main plot is interspersed with Celie experiencing some of the difficulties of growing up. Unfortunately she is rather pouty and self-absorbed in this book, constantly feeling like no one cares about her feelings or is giving her enough credit for her accomplishments. Admittedly, tweens do tend to have these types of feelings, and Celie’s personal struggles may strike a chord with younger readers … but I don’t necessarily want to read about it. Celie does, thankfully, have a loving family and wise parents who are able to help her deal with her personal growth pangs.
Fridays with the Wizards is a mildly enjoyable story that’s worth reading for fans of this children’s series, but it was a bit of a let-down for me. Too much of the plot felt like a retread. There are a few unexpected developments, but mostly this book is mopping up issues related to the events of the prior two volumes. Even the theme of Celie’s personal issues is one that’s been raised before.
The story contains some intriguing teasers about a strange village in Grath that has its own language and separate government, and the characters speculate that these villagers might be the descendants of the original griffin riders from Arkower, but that plotline is dropped without being further explored. Although I realize it would mean leaving Castle Glower behind for a while, sending Celie off to visit Lulath’s country to check out this village or to search for unicorns, as was hinted at in the early pages, would have been a nice fresh plot direction. Perhaps in the next sequel!
Castle Glower — (2011-2017) Ages 9-12. Publisher: Tuesday is Princess Celie’s favourite day. Castle Glower magically grows a new room, a turret or sometimes an entire wing! No one quite knows how, or why, but luckily, Princess Celie has mapped out the Castle’s many twists and turns. When the king and queen disappear and Councillors from neighbouring kingdoms arrive to advise Celie, a new tower and a secret passageway appear just as Celie needs them. The Castle is definitely trying to tell her something. But it’s down to Celie to find her parents, hold on to the kingdom and protect her home before it’s too late. This page-turning adventure marks the launch of a series sure to delight fans of Jessica Day George and win her countless new ones.