________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 12. . . .November 22, 2013


Curse of the Dream Witch.

Allan Stratton.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2013.
265 pp., pbk. & EBK, $7.99 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4431-1937-5 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4431-2849-0 (EBK).

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Meredith Harrison-Lim.

*** /4



The wind calmed to a gentle breeze. The umbrella floated down. Olivia, Milo and Ephemia saw gardens lusher than any courtyard, with flowers high as houses, stretching to the horizon.

“It looks like Heaven,” Olivia marveled.

“A Heaven made in Hell,” Ephemia murmured darkly.

The umbrella landed on top of a peony bush the size of an oak tree. Olivia and Milo climbed down its mighty branches.

“So there you are!” came a voice from a patch of bluebells. Olivia whirled around.

A sword scythed through the thicket of stems. A young man stepped forward. “I’ve come to save you.”

Oh no, Olivia thought.

It was Leo.


In Curse of the Dream Witch, the King and Queen of Belluman unwisely seek out the assistance of the Dream Witch when they are unable to have a child. The witch agrees to help in exchange for something so small that it will fit in the palm of her hand. When their daughter, Olivia, is christened, the Dream Witch comes to demand the Princess’s heart. Finding that 12 decorated eggs (Pysanky) protect the child, the Witch places “the Great Dread” on the kingdom and pledges that she will receive her demand on the Princess’s thirteenth birthday. The kingdom soon becomes a place where no child is safe. Parents keep close watch to ensure that the Witch does not take their child to be an ingredient in her spells, and the King and Queen become more anxious as the Witch routinely sends others to gain access to their daughter.

     Finally, the Princess and her sole remaining Pysanky are kept in isolation for her protection. When a neighboring Prince and Duke come to take the Princess to safety in their kingdom at the time of her thirteenth birthday, Princess Olivia and the kingdom find themselves more in danger than ever before. In the second half of the book, Princess Olivia, Milo, a 13-year-old peasant boy, and the protective mouse guardian, Ephemia, begin their quest to destroy the Dream Witch. At the same time, they are hoping to free the kingdom’s captured children, all the while trying to avoid being tricked by the distrustful Prince Leo or be destroyed in the Witch’s dream labyrinth. Unlikely friendships are formed, fears are faced, and evil is overcome in this adventure that is fast-paced and filled with the supernatural.

     This book differs from traditional quest novels in its irreverent tone. The author makes excellent use of description and creates enemies who are revolting and truly heartless. The main characters are also well developed. The Princess demonstrates herself to be courageous, bold, and intelligent when under stress, as well as thoughtful and conscientious of others. Milo is also well characterized; he demonstrates frustration at being treated like child yet, and, at the same time, he feels remorse for his poor behaviour. A particularly amusing episode in the novel occurs when Milo tries to comfort the Princess after the loss of her longtime companion. It rings true to the awkwardness that ensues when one is uncertain of how to provide appropriate comfort to a relatively new friend. While certain speeches sound trite, frequently they were counterbalanced by derisive comments by other characters, thereby maintaining the lightness of the read.

     Curse of the Dream Witch contains numerous events within its 265 pages, requiring the pace to be very quick. At times, the description of events was slightly confusing, making it difficult to determine what was exactly happening to the characters even after multiple reads of the scenarios. However, this did not detract from the novel’s general amusement. In particular, details such as the Witch’s flying meat cleaver, a tongue carpet, batwing paper, and spice grinders used as prison cells, made this book certain to be endearing to children and youth.


Meredith Harrison-Lim is a MLIS graduate who works for the Federal Government in the National Capital Region.

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

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