Monday 26 June 2023

Spellhound – A Dragons of Hallow book

Spellhound – A Dragons of Hallow book by Lian Tanner (Allen & Unwin), RRP $17.99 Middle Grade ISBN 9-781761-180057

Reviewed by Susan Hancy

There are Three Great Secrets in Hallow. The first has something to do with the Queen of Hallow, a young girl named Felicia who is kept under the control of her rather mean Aunt Delilah, constantly fed cake, made to put her signature to countless documents, but never allowed to know what she’s signing. The third has something to do with the spellhounds – three enormous dogs, Mum, Dad, and Pup, with some sort of powers, although Pup has had to flee and Mum and Dad have supposedly been captured by a dragon. We know nothing about the second secret, and the narrator is very much okay with that because if we knew everything then this wouldn’t be a story.

We also know that a tiny pixie-like creature called a minch-wiggin, who also lives in a Hallow and is named Flax, has a Dark and Terrible secret. She’s inherited a sword and leather satchel from her great (times seventeen) grandmother and the title of Destroyer-of-Dragons-and-Protector-of-her-People, and she really did not want any of it. And she did not want to get mixed up with the spellhound pup who was fleeing from the dragon and got caught in Flax’s web. But Pup kept running, dragging Flax along, and the two fell off the edge of the Floating Forest into the World Below.

All Pup wants is to find his parents, but Flax is certain that Pup’s parents are dead and all she wants to do is get back home to the Floating Forest. Luckily minch-wiggins have an excellent inherent sense of direction, and even luckier, Flax has some magic strings in her satchel which she can knot a certain way to make her and Pup invisible. That’s essential in the World Below where they at first mistake automobiles for dragons. Flax and Pup unexpectedly encounter Queen Felicia, who does not want to be recognised as Queen and instead introduces herself by one of her middle names – Rose.

When Rose learns that Pup is searching for the dragon to rescue his parents, she decides to escape her awful life as Queen and join Pup and Flax because she believes her parents were also taken by a dragon when she was a baby. She remembers a map from a book that had disappeared from the palace library and according to that map the dragon lives in the labyrinth at Mount Tangle. This information proves useful as the trio head for Mount Tangle and see a dragon towing a cloud across the sky. As the trio fights abductors, and an evil witch, the various pieces of the puzzles weave together revealing the special powers of the spellhounds and the sword, the true title that Flax inherited, what happened to Pup’s and Rose’s parents, who the evil witch is and why she’s so evil, and the first amazing secret about Queen Rose.  But probably the most unexpected revelation of all is who the narrator is.

An expertly constructed story with multiple layers told through the voice of a sassy narrator, this story of magic and other fantastical worlds quickly draws the reader in and compels them to keep turning the page. Highly recommended for boys and girls aged 7 to 11.

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