For those of us who have yet to read the first book, Diane generously opens this second book with a very fine synopsis of Book 1 - always a sign that an author cares about her readers. Briefly, `At Longstride Castle, in the Kingdom of Pen Pieyu, it is Princess Petra's ninth and royal birthday. Her father, King Longstride, has promised her anything her heart desires. Petra chooses to become a royal knight and protect her kingdom. (Thus far, Longstride castle has no knights as all of the silly soldiers are still trying to become knights.) After much commotion in the royal throne room, King Longstride has no choice but to grant her request. The royal rulebook says nothing about a girl becoming a knight but only that the proposed knight must perform a deed from a list of three. The choices are: to capture a crocodile and make his skin into a royal leather chair; to hush the howling, nasty dragon, Snarls, in the Forest of Doom; or to eat a roomful of raw onions.'
Petra takes option two and faces Snarls the dragon, but as in all fine fairy tales, the two become friends.Equally fine is the introduction to Book 2, so well written it bears quoting:' Over the last several months, Longstride Castle had become quite accustomed to having the only Princess Knight, well, the only knight actually, in the lands of Pen Pieyu. The king and queen held many parties in Petra's honor, and royals and peasants alike acknowledged the Princess Knight's kindness and bravery and brought what gifts they could to the castle, although the gift bearing seemed to have slowed of late. Petra was not concerned with the parties or gifts as much as she was eager to practice all her knight skills : jousting, fencing, javelin throwing, steed grooming and maintenance, running, armour polishing, and, of course, onion-throwing to hit the mark. She also kept up with her Highland dance lessons, just because she liked it. Longstride Castle had also become quite accustomed to having a dragon in the kitchen since Snarls had become master barbecue connoisseur. The royal rule book said nothing about a dragon in the kitchen, only that the master barbecue connoisseur must provide a very hot fire available for barbecues at a moment's notice. The castle parties flourished as Snarls roasted to perfection his specialties: skewed onion-turnip pom-poms, onion-broccoli no-where-to-be-seen, and, of course, onion omelette ta-da.'
However, the king and queen tire of Petra's obsession with knighthood and the king creates a new rule book that requires Petra to achieve another status level - she must attend a Talent School to reorient her thinking to that of a Princess rather than a knight Or (of course in good fantasy) endure the spell of the royal magician. And Petra's new talent is...you must read to discover. (Just remember the author's gift and you'll guess it).
Diane peppers her book with fanciful drawings by Samantha Kickingbird (and a terrific cover by Errol Villamante) of maps, scrolls, figures of the cast as well as the story at the end. She keeps the book short (a true plus for young readers) and makes her dialogue full of contemporary humor with just the right touch of lightness. In other words, Diane has mastered this genre. Or as other have said, her books are `amazingly fresh, charmingly funny, and embrace timeless values kindness, understanding, and respect'. Highly recommended. Grady Harp, May 15
For more information and reviews on my dragon books for children: http://www.dragonsbook.com