CM . . .
. Volume XII Number 18 . . . .May 12, 2006
This is Canadian writer McCurdy's first novel and the first of “The Serpent's Egg” trilogy. Miranda is a 10-year-old Ottawa girl who, with three friends and a dog, goes through a portal on Parliament Hill and enters a magical world. To her amazement, she learns she is the only person capable of capturing the serpent's egg and defeating the Demon Hate.
The plot, although full of danger, adventure and intrigue, offers little that is new or different in the world of children's fantasy. The writing is well-paced and descriptive, sometimes overly so. McCurdy doesn't shy away from the more gruesome details of battle scenes. Characters in this fantasy world include elves, dragons, druids, trolls, wizards and so on who act according to their allotted roles. Thus they become somewhat one-dimensional. The same holds true for Miranda and her friends who, by the end of the novel, seem quite predictable as they take the reader through the basic Good vs. Evil fantasy adventure. Certainly they show aspects of friendship and courage and to some extent learn more about themselves in the process, but this is lost in the whirlwind of magic, battles, and frightening, fantastic creatures.
The story begins in Ottawa, but, after the first few chapters, that setting becomes irrelevant as does the secret code which is first used to communicate with Miranda. The children's grade four teacher is a silly caricature which is perhaps designed to amuse young readers but is otherwise an insult to the profession and quite unnecessary to the overall plot. The final sentence, "But not before it had laid five round eggs, as black as Hate," sets up readers very neatly for the second book of the series, The Burning Crown.
This is a fast-paced adventure which will appeal to young fans of “Harry Potter” or “The Lord of the Rings.” It does not reach the heights of either of the other series, but it will keep an avid fantasy reader happy until the excitement finishes on the very last page.
Ann Ketcheson, a former teacher-librarian and high school teacher of English and French, lives in Ottawa.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.