Review: Wizards of Once

Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell
375 pages
Genre: Children’s literature, fantasy
Published by Little Brown, 2018
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Re-readability: I’ll definitely be reading this one again and I’m already excited about the second one.

Reviewed by Indiana
Spoiler-free review

This book is a non-stop adventure, from the first page to the last. It’s jam-packed with humor and heart wrenching moments, just like Cressida Cowell’s How to Train Your Dragon series.

The world of Once is divided into two types of people: Wizards and Warriors. Wizards hold all the magic and Warriors do everything they can to remove all the magic from the world.

But something is changing.

Xar, the hubristic young Wizard protagonist, has found a feather that he believes is a witch feather, the most powerfully evil creatures, which have been thought to be extinct. He’s at an age where his magic should have come in, but it hasn’t and he’s really hoping to discover a witch to make his father proud and to make up for the fact that his magic is mysteriously missing. On the other hand, Wish, a whimsical Warrior protagonist, has found magic and can’t seem to let it go. She’s got a friendly spoon that seems to be alive and a magical sword that claims to have killed witches at one time, which she can’t seem to let go of.

The two stumble upon one another as Xar and his ensemble (a group of faeries, snowcats, and other strange creatures) are trying to catch the witch. Instead they catch Wish and her rather unprotective and swooning bodyguard.

The story gets a bit wonkier from there. Without giving the entire plot away, Xar’s head gets a bit big, causes more problems than he’d bargained for, and he must untangle the mess. Xar must come to terms with not only his actions, but with what it means to be a Wizard. Meanwhile, Wish discovers more than a few family secrets that tear away the notion of what she thought it meant to be a Warrior.

Cowell’s take on common mythical creatures was one the best aspects of the book. Giants, which are normally seen as slow and stupid creatures, are extraordinarily smart because they think big, meta thoughts. They’re just slower because they operate on a another time scale. Cowell’s illustrations of the giants, the giant lynx, the sprites, Xar, Wish and all the other eccentric characters just made the book feel even more like a classic adventure.  


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