Sproles has shaped this book in the mold of a classic children’s adventure—a child is lost in a land of fairy tales and trying to get home.
The central character is Bill Bedivere, a kid who loves fairy tales even though, at 12, he’s a bit too old for them. They’ve been an escape for him since his mother disappeared mysteriously five years ago. While camping with his father and two school friends, Billy is lured into a cave by a mysterious call for help. He falls into a magical world of fairy tales called the Kingdom of Legends, where he meets a fantastical cast of creatures, including Hansel and Gretel, a troll named Grin, dragons, witches, superfast snails, and a cute little guy names Sparkie the Droll. Billy is told by the first inhabitants he sees that he has to see the Wishmaker. He meets some new friends on the pass through the Dark Forest and finds the Wishmaker, only to be told that he must go on a quest and defeat a witch who has turned a queen into a dragon before he can go home. It’s a good setup for an engaging children’s book—a young protagonist learning to be self-reliant and to obey his elders while having an adventure in a strange land. Sproles has created some interesting characters, especially the spell-weaving Sparkie. But there isn’t much in the way of originality in the story. It’s plotted like The Wizard of Oz, and Sproles tries to emulate Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland a bit too much at times. It feels like a retread of those classic stories rather than a mashup that creates something new. The prose is also clumsy and includes a lot of vague and awkward descriptions. There are a few plot twists that also seem a bit too convenient; e.g., an amulet taken on a whim turns out to have helpful magic powers in the final battle scene.
A faulty take on a classic theme.