Twice Magic by Cressida Cowell
The second book in Cressida Cowell‘s WIZARDS OF ONCE series does everything a good sequel should: expand the world, develop the characters, and deepen the story. As we discovered in The Wizards of Once, Ancient Britain is inhabited by two distinct races: the Wizards, who live among the magical creatures of the forest, and the Warriors, who are armed with iron weapons, the only metal that can repel magic.
In the first book, we met Xar and Wish, two young people who’ve grown up on each side of this conflict. Xar is the rather arrogant and vainglorious youngest son of the King Wizard, Encanzo, while Wish is the more introspective and sweet-natured daughter of Queen Sychorax, leader of the Warriors.
They met by chance in the midst of the forest, and their ensuing adventure led to the release of a terrible Witch upon the world. Having been forcibly separated from their parents, the two try to reunite in order to restart their quest to find the ingredients required for a spell to banish the Witches forever. But how can they do that when Xar is locked up in a magical prison and Wish is trapped behind the walls of her fortress home?
Though I’ve never read any of the HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON books, Cowell seems to have a trademark chatty prose that serves Twice Magic well considering the narrator claims to be a character in the story (but as yet, has not divulged his/her identity).
Sometimes I wish she would write with less of a comedic bent, considering a lot of her material is quite dark and/or poignant. Perhaps a few less pratfalls and talking utensil jokes, and more of the lovely descriptive imagery that brings to life the mysterious forest and its inhabitants.
But there’s a great adventure here, with plenty of magical creatures (from sprites to giants to werewolves) and people from very different worlds working together to defeat a common enemy. The world-building is especially imaginative, from giants that think as slowly as they move, to spell-raiders who specialize in collecting ingredients for magical spells.
Xar and Wish are likeable protagonists (well, Xar still has a massive ego he has to get over) who discover something surprising about their parents during the course of their journey together that will undoubtedly come into play in later books.
Cowell also provides illustrations throughout, which depict the characters as rather spiky, stylized figures that are nevertheless bursting with personality.
In all, Twice Magic is a good second installment, to be followed up with Knock Three Times.