The Centre of Magic: Floramonde is a real treasure

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews Pamela Freeman Floramonde The Willow Tree's Daughter, Windrider, The Centre of MagicThe Centre of Magic by Pamela Freeman

The Centre of Magic is the final in the three Floramonde books, beginning with The Willow Tree’s Daughter which told of the love between King Max of Floramonde and Salixia, the dryad of the willow tree, their child Princess Betony and her romance with the gardener’s boy Basil. In Windrider we learnt of the chance Betony was offered by the dragon Windrider to “put down roots” and become a dryad herself, and her friend’s and family’s efforts to bring her back into their world. Finally, in The Centre of Magic we are introduced to the wizard Colchis, who has been expelled from the Wizard’s Guild in the next kingdom from Floramonde, and his search for power and revenge. Knowing that Floramonde is filled with Wild Magic rather than the less potent Human Magic, he crosses over in order to tap into its source and restrain it for himself.

To do so requires him to find the Centre of Magic in Floramonde — an ancient comet that crashed to the earth and became the founding of Floramonde’s power. With this he adds two young dryad trees — mercilessly pulling them from their forest homes, and the power of necromancy to pull Wild Magic into his control. But the Centre of Magic is on the land of a farmer and his wife, and their children are quite curious as to what Colchis is getting up to — and so his experiment is interrupted at a crucial point, and the Wild Magic spills out over the land…

Meanwhile, the inhabitants of the palace are well aware of some of the mischief that Colchis has been up to. With the ability to hear and speak to the wind Betony, Salixia and their fairy godmother-and-gardener Rosie know that two dryads have been pulled from the soil and that trouble is brewing. Betony and her husband Basil set off to search for the uprooted trees, followed by Rosie’s assistant Jo who has her own aspirations to conquer her fear and display heroics. But with the unleashing of Wild Magic upon the earth, there are some very unexpected side effects occurring — people are transforming into their true selves, whether it be a weasel, a centaur, a cat or a griffin. And most seem to be enjoying it — so what should the final decision of the three adventurers be? To reverse the magic, or to let people remain as they are? Perhaps Jo has the answer…

I will always be thankful I picked up The Willow Tree’s Daughter at the library, as it swiftly became a favourite of mine with its clear, inventive stories, comic moments, and its ability to make astonishingly profound comments for what is considered ‘children’s books’. This trend continued into Windrider, but unfortunately, though I still enjoyed it, I did not quite think The Centre of Magic lived up to the first two books. Some characters did not appear as much as they did previously, such as Windrider, Ralph and Cassandra, and Clover did not appear at all! Furthermore, since the story was told from the point of view of Jo rather than Betony, the story seemed to be taking a different direction than normal.

However, the Floramonde books are a rare treasure, and also they are not as sophisticated as Harry Potter, I loved their whimsy and the deep meanings to be found under the simplicity. Please, please, do yourself a favor and track these books down.

Floramonde — (1996-2009) Ages 9-12. From Author’s Website: When Betony was a baby, the court wizard made a prophecy: she will be friends with strange creatures; she will face danger many times; she will find love in unexpected places; and she will become a great queen. Betony is brought up to be a proper princess, but she hates all the fuss about dancing, embroidery and the right way to talk to a viscount. She’d rather work in the garden or explore the world outside the palace. So she runs away, and through her adventures she discovers that it takes courage and the help of good friends — including a certain gardener’s boy — to find her true path in life.

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REBECCA FISHER, with us since January 2008, earned a Masters degree in literature at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Her thesis included a comparison of how C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman each use the idea of mankind’s Fall from Grace to structure the worldviews presented in their fantasy series. Rebecca is a firm believer that fantasy books written for children can be just as meaningful, well-written and enjoyable as those for adults, and in some cases, even more so. Rebecca lives in New Zealand. She is the winner of the 2015 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best SFF Fan Writer.

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