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The Whim of the Dragon

by Pamela Dean

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Secret Country (3)

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471844,581 (3.9)11
The Third and Final book of the Secret Country Trilogy!   Three things have the power to destroy the Secret Country: the Border Magic, the Crystal of Earth, and the whim of the dragon. The cousins Ted, Laura, Ruth, Patrick, and Ellen have faced the first two; now, summoned back to the Secret Country, they must face the third. The Country's most trusted counselors now know that the five are impostors, somehow thrust into the roles of royalty, but no one knows who has been playing with their destinies. The truth lies with only Chryse, the unicorn, and Belaparthalion, the dragon. But getting to them, and speaking with them, is more complex and dangerous than it seems....   "Pamela Dean's Secret Country books are required reading for anyone who loves fantasy. Get them!"--Will Shetterly, author of Dogland… (more)
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» See also 11 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
The Carrolls survived the battle, but were afraid to see their all-to-real game through to the end. They retrieved the magic swords of Melanie and Shan and found their way to their homes. Almost immediately, however, Ted and Laura are beckoned by a cardinal and brought to another mysterious house. There a man in red convinces them that they must go back to the Hidden Land and see the story through, or everything they were afraid of would come true.

This volume brings everything out into the open. Dean handles the Carrolls revealing themselves to Fence and Randolph well, as well as the truth of what happened to the real royal children. 'The Whim of the Dragon' is overstuffed with even more dense narration and quotations from Shakespeare and other antique poets. I have no idea how a young reader would take all of this, because for adult me it was a little overwhelming. However, I still enjoyed the action of the series and seeing the whole grand scheme behind the trilogy laid bare. In my review for 'The Secret Country' I mentioned giving these, with several others, to my young nephew. It will be an interesting conversation.

The Secret Country

Next: 'The Dubious Hills' - A companion volume

Previous: 'The Hidden Land' ( )
  ManWithAnAgenda | Mar 19, 2021 |
The conclusion to 'The Secret Country' trilogy is satisfying, but seems to lack the easy magic of the first installment. What I had enjoyed most about 'The Secret Country' had been the natural way Patrick, Ted, Ellen, Ruth and Lucy had talked and bickered with each other, along with the indignation of finding things different then what they had imagined.

Of course, by this point the children are veterans of living in the fantasy kingdom and have accepted the differences, but nothing substantial seems to have taken that banter's place. The conclusion was unexpected, but exactly right in solving the question of what happens to the children after they leave the magical kingdom. Business-as-Usual always seemed to be a bit far-fetched.

All in all, the book is a satisfying end and ties up all the loose ends and makes 'The Secret County' a good children's fantasy that doesn't quite add up to Narnian heights, but what can?

Update: A companion book exists! See link below.

The Secret Trilogy

Next: 'The Dubious Hills'

Previous: 'The Hidden Land' ( )
  ManWithAnAgenda | Feb 18, 2019 |
This is the third volume of Pamela Dean's Secret Country trilogy, in which five children find themselves in a fantasy realm they thought they'd invented as part of a game. Honestly, I pretty much only read this one out of some completist impulse, as the first two books didn't exactly thrill me. Which is frustrating, because it seems to me that there's a good story buried in here somewhere, something with, at least potentially, an interesting plot and a bit of drama and a nifty little metafictional thread running through it. Pity it's ruined in the execution.

The main problem is the dialog. (Well, mostly the dialog; it bleeds over into other parts of the prose, too.) The problem with the dialog being that Dean needs to learn write her own damn dialog. I swear, there are entire conversations here where the characters talk entirely in Shakespeare quotes. For no good reason. When they're not quoting Shakespeare, it's poetry, or folk songs, or any of a number of writers that seem to be tossed into the mix just because the author likes them, and never mind how ridiculous it is that the child characters are somehow as expert in this stuff as your average English literature professor. There is, perhaps, some narrative justification for including the occasional quotation or snatch of poetry, and, if done with a light touch, it might have been pleasant and clever. As it is? No. No, it is not clever. It is pretentious, distracting, obfuscatory, and really goddamned annoying.

This volume, at least, was a faster read for me than the previous two, despite being the longest of the three. But it's also the point where the last thread of my forgiveness for Dean's writing snapped.

Rating: 2/5, and I'm going to let that rating stand for the series as a whole. Yes, I know I rated the first two books higher than that. It was wishful thinking; while there are good aspects to this series, they just do not overcome the annoyance factor, no matter how much I kept wanting them to. ( )
  bragan | Feb 8, 2015 |
I thought this was the best book of the trilogy, although it still frustrated me in many ways. The best way I can put is it that through the trilogy, Dean made the characters more substantial, but the Secret Country still seems threadbare. That's appropriate for a world that may have been created in a children's let's-pretend game, but by this point, we're supposed to be thinking that the Secret Country is real—and there's just not enough there to feel real. But yes, I did like that we get to know the characters better (most of them, anyway; Patrick falls by the wayside in this book). Where we once only saw the story through Ted and Laura's points-of-view, we now also see the story through Ellen and Ruth's eyes. The story's end leaves some questions unanswered and is a bit pat, but it does feel like a conclusion. Plus, there's a twist to the end that I haven't seen in other travel-to-a-magical-land books, and I appreciate originality! ( )
  Silvernfire | Nov 10, 2012 |
Ruth, Patrick, Ted, Ellen, and Laura go home, but it is not long after that Ted and Laura stumble on a series of events that bring them back to the Secret Country. When they return, things aren’t what they used to be, now that Fence and Randolph know about the cousins’ secret. Meanwhile, there are still things in the Secret Country that must be fixed: Fence must lead a group to the Heathwill Library to find answers, and Randolph must lead another to the Lords of the Dead and then the Dragon King.

I don’t have much to say about The Whim of the Dragon that doesn’t apply for my reviews of the two earlier books in this trilogy. Pamela Dean writes an intelligent, twisty young adult series with rich characterization and an ambiguity that is tantalizing as much as it can sometimes be frustrating. I do think it veers a little more towards frustrating in this book because it is the last in the series and the reader wants conclusion. It doesn’t make The Whim of the Dragon bad but it did leave me with a lot of (spoiler-filled) questions.

What were Melanie’s motives? Why did she give herself to the Lords of the Dead? Why did the children hear the voices of the royal children? Why did the Dragon King attack the Hidden Land? Since when does Randolph have feelings for Ruth? Was Andrew a spy?

In the author bio for my copy of the book, Pamela Dean says originally she had written a long story that she was later forced to trim. I think either she trimmed too much or she purposefully left questions dangling.

Even so, there’s a lot this book offers. I do like the ending and the divisions that are made between the children who stay and the children who go. It made a lot of sense to me and left a ball of tenderness lodged in my throat. ( )
2 vote veevoxvoom | Oct 25, 2008 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Pamela Deanprimary authorall editionscalculated
Morrissey, DeanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stone, SteveCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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To Patricia Wrede, whose patience has been so sorely tried
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Her Gentle and Fruitful Grace, Ruth, Lady of the Green Caves, formerly Princess of the Hidden Land and Lord of the King's Forests, to their Excellent and Estimable Lordships Randolph, King's Counselor, and Fence, Council's Wizard, greetings.
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The Third and Final book of the Secret Country Trilogy!   Three things have the power to destroy the Secret Country: the Border Magic, the Crystal of Earth, and the whim of the dragon. The cousins Ted, Laura, Ruth, Patrick, and Ellen have faced the first two; now, summoned back to the Secret Country, they must face the third. The Country's most trusted counselors now know that the five are impostors, somehow thrust into the roles of royalty, but no one knows who has been playing with their destinies. The truth lies with only Chryse, the unicorn, and Belaparthalion, the dragon. But getting to them, and speaking with them, is more complex and dangerous than it seems....   "Pamela Dean's Secret Country books are required reading for anyone who loves fantasy. Get them!"--Will Shetterly, author of Dogland

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