Frogkisser! by Garth Nix (Allen and Unwin) PB RRP $19.99
Reviewed by Daniela Andrews
True love’s kiss can break a spell, right? That’s what the fairytales say. But what if true love’s kiss isn’t available? What if, say, a fickle queen-to-be (whose suitor has been converted to a frog by her evil step-stepfather) is too disgusted at the thought of kissing an amphibian?
Enter Princess Anya … the younger, practical, responsible sister, who really just wants to put an end to her sister’s wailing and get back to her reading. Anya promises to find Prince Denholm and reconvert him. She is helped by the palace librarian, Gotfried, who offers two remedies: a spell for finding the frog, and a ‘Transmogrification Reversal Lip Balm’ that can be applied in the absence of true love. It should be simple, but of course it isn’t. First, the frog she catches and kisses isn’t Denholm. Second, she’s out of lip balm.
Award-winning fantasy author, Garth Nix, slowly builds on Anya’s basic quest to kiss a frog and turns it into a humorous fairytale adventure of epic proportions. As her step-stepfather, Duke Rikard, grows stronger in power and attempts to steal the throne, Anya realises she needs to save her sister. And the kingdom. Other kingdoms, too. Plus restore the ‘All-Encompassing Bill of Rights and Wrongs’. Find allies. Build an army. Source obscure ingredients for more lip balm. Kiss lots of frogs. Oh, and possibly reassess her entire life vision.
Garth Nix has once again created a brave, admirable heroine, with traits reminiscent of Lirael and Sabriel. His writing is fresh and playful, with a hint of the absurd, all the while remaining vivid in description and intensity. I was delightfully taken aback at the amusing moments sprinkled within moments of action. (For example, an awestruck Anya quietly observes a tree spirit … and her royal canine sidekick, Ardent, explains why dogs like trees. Amidst the Duke’s list of serious crimes is a charge for ‘improper cackling’, and there’s a Shakespearean-like character – ‘Gerald-the-Herald’ – who randomly enters a scene and obnoxiously shouts out headlines.)
Frogkisser! targets readers aged 13–16 years and will be made into an animated musical film by FOX Animation and Blue Sky Studios (creators of Ice Age). It is a stand-a-lone novel, but Nix has cleverly left behind some unexplained mysteries that would allow him to expand the story if he chooses.