How do you break a spell when you have no idea who cast it or where to find them?
What makes The Crowded Kingdom something I plan to read over and over again is the unforgettable imagery in it. From the creative explanation of why it’s sometimes so difficult for humans to walk up steps to the truth about what really happened to dragons over the last millennium, I chuckled my way through this engrossing adventure.
Jada and Jinny are brave, resourceful sisters whose reaction to their predicament is much calmer than mine would have been. Their ages are never directly stated, but I imagine them to be somewhere in the range of 6 to 9 years old. I really enjoyed watching these sisters take on new challenges as a team. They honestly seem to like one another as individuals, and while they don’t always agree on everything it was refreshing to see siblings get along so well.
Some footnotes eventually became distracting for me. Even though they contain factual information that enhances the reading experience (especially for the age group for which this book was intended), in some sections this writing style is used so often that it slows down the plot. I suggest skimming the footnotes to anyone reading this book aloud and only sharing the ones that their listeners are not already familiar with. In general the footnotes in the beginning were more helpful than the ones that occurred later on. This is a minor critique of an otherwise wonderful story, though.
While the first half of this tale may be quite appealing to younger readers, the age recommendation should not be ignored. The second half includes creatures and events that are far too frightening for toddlers and preschoolers. There is no upper age limit on this piece. Some of the references are actually meant for readers who are adults or much older kids, and the plot is complex enough to appeal to the whole family.
The illustrations in this book appear to be simple sketches at first glance, but after looking closer I realized how beautiful and appropriate they are for the scenes they highlight. More than once I found myself wishing I could see how the author imagines a particular event only to scroll down and have my wish fulfilled. I figured out early on that the author was also the person who illustrated this work. Her passion for this tale shines through in every stroke of her work, and I, for one, am eagerly anticipating future stories from her. The final pages assured me that Jade and Jinny will return for more adventures, and I can’t wait to discover what they do next.
I never wanted The Crowded Kingdom to end. This is an excellent choice for anyone who loves the fantasy genre, especially if they’re interested in a modern twist on old legends.
Editor's note: This article was originally published at Long and Short Reviews. It has been republished with permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.