The Robe of Skulls by Vivian French
Illustrated by Ross Collins
The First Tale From the Five Kingdoms
Finished: May 12, 2009
First Published: 2007 (pb release - Apr. 14, 2009)
Genre: children's fantasy, humour
"Skulls," said Lady Lamorna.
Reason for Reading: I have to admit it was the cover that first attracted me to this book. Then once I read the plot summary I knew I had to read it. I received a review copy from Random House Canada.
Comments: Lady Lamorna has ordered a new dress to be made by the Ancient Ones but when she goes to check her finances she finds her treasure chest empty. So she sets forth with her clumsy slave Grubble, the troll, to capture all the local princes and princesses, turn them into frogs and ransom them back to fill her coffers once again. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to them, Lady Lamora's path is about to be crossed and her plans possibly dashed by brave Gracie Gillypot, prankster second-son prince Marcus, two clever and talkative bats, and a very wicked stepsister.
This book was a whole lot of fun. Written in a not too serious style, there were laughs aplenty and pure glee in the reading. The bad were bad and the good were good with no one crossing boundaries. While the bad were certainly bad, they were not frightening but rather fun to dislike. A really cute story with adorable protagonists. Girls will relate to Gracie, while boys will hang with Marcus; each character is given equal page time.
Ross Collins' illustrations are wonderful full page b/w drawings with a humorous Gothic feel to them that certainly enhance the text and come frequently enough to keep them a welcome joy when they appear. I'm always disappointed not to see an illustrator's name on the front cover and, while it appears right away on the first page, my only complaint with the book is that the publisher's did not see fit to put Ross Collins' name on the cover as his pictures are part of the enjoyment of this book.
A great fantasy read for elementary students and others who enjoy a fun children's fantasy romp. A sequel will be coming out this July called The Bag of Bones. I look forward to it. From the name of the series I am guessing we can expect five books in total though I hope the rest come faster than every two years! Recommended.