94. The Robe of Skulls

The Robe of Skulls by Vivian French
Illustrated by Ross Collins
The First Tale From the Five Kingdoms

Pages: 200
Ages: 8+
Finished: May 12, 2009
First Published: 2007 (pb release - Apr. 14, 2009)
Genre: children's fantasy, humour
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

"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.


  1. Looks like a lot of fun! And the cover is really eye catching. Maybe I'll pick this up for the next read-a-thon since it will fit nicely with the Halloween feel in October!

  2. I really like the cover to this book, too! Glad you also enjoyed the book. Always hate when I like the cover but not the story!

  3. Trish - yes, this is an easy, fast read and the chapters are short. so would be perfect for the read-a-thon.

    Kailana - they say not to judge a book by it's cover but when you've got a cover like this it's so hard not too! I'm glad the story matched the cover, too :-)

  4. This sounds like a good one for a future read-aloud to my kids. Thanks for the recommendation!

  5. I love the cover as well and the premise sounds a lot of fun. Will keep an eye out for it thanks.


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