Frogkisser! by Garth Nix
|Frogkisser! by Garth Nix|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A tiresomely comical fantasy, that tries to riff off all that's come before it, but isn't anywhere nearly as on the ball as it needs to be.|
|Buy? No||Borrow? Maybe|
|Pages: 384||Date: February 2017|
|Publisher: Piccadilly Press|
|External links: Author's website|
Trallonia is in trouble. It's a kingdom – a very small one, mind – with no real leadership. Three months away from becoming queen in her own right is the older princess, Morven, but she's besotted with each and every prince that comes a-wooing, and would probably only want the pretty frocks side of reigning. Ruler regent at the moment is the second husband to the girls' stepmother (ie stepstepfather) and all round Bad Egg, Rikard. He's building his influence on the land, and increasing his magical power, turning all kinds of people into all kinds of animals. All of which means younger princess, Anya, will have to go on one of those capital letter-deserving Quests, to find a remedy for such species-swapping, and muster an army to keep Rikard from the throne. But even that hugely important demand might be swamped by what is really troubling the world…
From such a name as Garth Nix, I found this to be a large disappointment. I know he may well not have written his own front cover so can't blame him entirely, but I was expecting a magical romp of a fairytale. I thought this would be a wittily subversive antidote to the typical type of story that pantomime writers turn to. And we start off brightly with a fresh look at a fresh princess needing to kiss a fresh frog to get her prince back, but after that… What we actually have is a bog-standard fantasy read, where evil must be usurped, strangers are met in woods, and the kingdom must be saved. It's only until we're almost at the halfway mark that said pantomime characters start turning up en masse, in unexpected ways – only for them to do regular fantasy things.
Now, forgetting all the books that have had those same quest ideas already, I wouldn't mind there being one more, especially from such an esteemed author. But there's no mistaking the realisation, far too early in this instance, that this book is just too long. Still, it is a comedy fantasy, and I suppose I'm supposed to be grateful for that – surely, if it didn't have humour it would have died a death on the page – but 400 pages of anyone's sense of humour can begin to pall, and this one certainly did. In amongst the visual sense of levity we get a Disney-ready comical talking dog sidekick, and more, and the whole style is quippy, but I very quickly tired of it all.
Added to that, there is a touch of the modern allegory, where Anya is warned about the importance of whoever does rule Trallonia obeying the Bill of Rights the world was once used to – yes, we're on our own hunt-the-political-allegory quest. But finally, in an era when the movies are turning these tales on their heads, this was nowhere near as subversive as it seemed to think. Kids can take edgy writing – they deserve it, in fact. A book for them doesn't have to be post-modern, but heck at least make it modern. I found this too stuck in the humdrum, neither as clever, witty or surprising as needed, and almost energy-sapping at times.
I must still thank the publishers for my review copy.
For a complete revival of fairy tale into something modern enough for young ladies, The Lunar Chronicles: Cinder by Marissa Meyer is still the place to start.
You can read more book reviews or buy Frogkisser! by Garth Nix at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Frogkisser! by Garth Nix at Amazon.com.
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