Sudden assaults by hungry giants and an army of witches prompt a final desperate quest to save the vocational school for knightly knights and battle princesses.
Larson makes a strong bid to close out this above-average trilogy with a flourish, then blows it by phoning in the whole climax. When three giants suddenly lay siege to Pennyroyal, student princesses Evie and Basil (yes, Basil), along with other allies of both genders, set out to bargain for a certain giant-beguiling magic harp currently owned by Rumpelstiltskin. Although he puts his young questers through a long trek replete with narrow escapes from vicious goblins, surly trolls, annoyingly gregarious unicorns, and really scary witches, the author suddenly discards that quest and sends everyone in different directions to take care of personal business. Evie herself goes off to reunite with her dragon foster parents and sister. She brings them flying back to Pennyroyal—where all of her friends have somehow conveniently regathered—just in time to help repel a swarm of witches. Along with losing track of important characters and laying out battle choreography so that there’s always time for long chats in the middle of frantic action, the author summarily wraps up multiple plotlines with what can be described as anticlimaxes at best. Letdowns galore, perhaps most particularly the undermining of Basil’s heretofore delightfully subversive questioning of gender roles. Absence of racial markers implies the human cast is all white.
Engaging (if familiar) premise and settings, strong casting, and classic overall arc—all spoiled by an irremediably dismal finish. (Fantasy. 11-13)