________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 18 . . . .May 12, 2006


The Serpent’s Egg. (Serpent’s Egg Trilogy, Bk. 1).

J. Fitzgerald McCurdy.
Toronto, ON: HarperCollins, 2001/2005.
402 pp., paper, $7.99.
ISBN 0-00-639333-0.

Grades 5-9 / Ages 10-14.

Review by Ann Ketcheson.

*** /4



She towered above them by at least five feet. Her body was as black as midnight, coated with armour-like scales. Her feet and the hands on each of her four arms ended in razor-sharp claws. Over her massive shoulders she wore a long black cloak with a loose-fitting hood. Under the cloak, around her middle, was a knotted belt of writhing, flexing serpents whose venom could kill a Vark Giant in seconds. Sticking out from under the shapeless hood was a tangle of matted, wet black hair. Human skulls dangled from the creature's ears, and around her thick neck she wore her favourite necklace of shrivelled corpses. And burning with a fierce glow in the blackness under her hood were two red eyes — Demon's eyes. ... Thinking about killing sent a thrill along Taog's scaly hide. But her eyes smouldered with hatred. For a thousand years she had been imprisoned in the Place with No Name - a disgusting cavity populated by her creatures - things she had had to kill over the years. She hated those who had tricked her...no, trapped her, and sent her reeling into that Hell. During those years, her hatred grew until it ate her up and took away her name, and she became hate. But she was free now! Blood pulsed through her veins as she thought about her enemies and what she had in store for them.


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.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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