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The Language of Spells by Garret Weyr
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The Language of Spells (original 2018; edition 2018)

by Garret Weyr

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5715296,388 (3.75)6
Member:foggidawn
Title:The Language of Spells
Authors:Garret Weyr
Info:San Francisco : Chronicle Books, [2018]
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:JFIC, galley, fantasy, dragons, early reviewer, read august 2018

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The Language of Spells by Garret Weyr (2018)

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Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
In 1803 the last dragon ever is born, named Grisha. He lives with his mother in the black forest of Germany until he is about 60 years old, when he has an encounter with an evil magician and is turned into a teapot. For 80 years he lives as a teapot, shuffled around Europe in various households. When he is finally transformed back into a dragon, right after World War II, he learns that all dragons from all over the world are heading to Vienna, so he does too.
Several months later he is working as a janitor and meets a lonely girl named Maggie. She asks him where all the other dragons are and he .... doesn't remember. Can Grisha and Maggie find out what happened to the dragons, and get them back?

This book has all the elements of something I would really love, but they are not formed into a cohesive world or narrative. I loved the setting, and magic, and dragons, and I mostly really liked Maggie. But other than that I found the book to be way too long and unnecessarily explain-y. It was always telling and rarely showing. I really liked the beginning of the book, learning about dragons and seeing European history from the eyes of Teapot-Grisha, but that turned out to be almost irrelevant to the rest of the book.

The only thing I did not like about Maggie was that the book makes a big deal of how Maggie is "special", in a way I really did not care for, and the perspective of the book is very misanthropic. All humans are mean and cruel, except Maggie and her father. Maggie is lonely and wants to make friends, but when she talks to other kids they think she is weird and don't want to be friends with her. This is presented as "people are terrible" instead of "a kid raised without any contact with other kids is going to have a hard time relating to other kids and so maybe you shouldn't do that."

As far as the magic goes, the author makes a lot of complicated rules and then either ignores them or hand-waves them away as convenient. The evil magician casts a lot of spells, but the magic system is such that if the spells a magician casts are broken, the magician loses their power. Why would a magician bother to cast such pointless spells as turning a dragon into a teapot and selling the teapot if the breaking of that spell would mean that his power would be diminished?

In the end, Maggie saves the dragons by giving up her "first and only friend". However, she actually loses the ability to see or interact with any part of the magical world. Either of those things would make sense as an ending but the book presents them as if they are the same thing, which they are not. It just doesn't quite click.

There's some seriously wonderful material here, but it's lost in a book that desperately needs an edit. My dislike is definitely influenced by the high hopes I had after the first few chapters. I did very much enjoy the *gorgeous* illustrations. It's probably aimed at a middle-grade or younger audience, though it's 300 pages and contains complex language and ideas. ( )
  norabelle414 | Oct 16, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This review and many more like it are available at Read Till Dawn.

Sometimes, when I've gotten too bogged down with churning through books and reviews, I get a little disenchanted with reading. I forget the magical feeling that comes with losing myself in a good book.

But then I read something like The Language of Spells and I remember all over again.

It reminds me of so many of the fantasy books I read when I was younger, but it's not so redundant that it becomes forgettable. The approach to magic is a relatively fresh angle, and the faux history of magic's disappearance in the past few hundred years actually makes quite a bit of sense. The mistreatment of the missing dragons is awful, but made a hundred times worse by the fact that it eerily echoes the Holocaust which took place around the same time.

Don't worry, though, the story is not so dark that it would be bad for younger or more sensitive readers. In fact, I think it's just about the perfect combination of sadness and fun. Grisha's story is a fascinating one, which I don't want to talk about too much because of spoilers, and I loved to watch his and Maggie's relationship.

My only real issue with the book, I think, is that Weyr kept basically smacking us in the face with the idea that everyone has become so caught up in efficiency and facts that they've forgotten how to see magic; only people like Maggie, whose father lets her read whatever books she chooses and lets her direct her own homeschool education, has kept hold of her imagination enough to see the dragons. As a former homeschooler myself, I don't believe you have to have an unorthodox education to stay imaginative–and I don't think small children should be encouraged to read books with adult topics they're not ready for.

But that's a rather small quibble I have. Overall, I just really enjoyed the reading journey. On one hand, I'd love to read another book set a few years down the road–but on the other, I think the ending is just about the perfect bittersweet end to a perfectly bittersweet story.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
1 vote Jaina_Rose | Aug 28, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Grisha is a dragon; the youngest of the last dragons, actually. And, due to the machinations of an evil magician, he's spent most of his life as an enchanted teapot. When the enchantment is broken, he learns that all of the world's remaining dragons have followed a mysterious summoning sound to Vienna. After some time in Vienna, he meets Maggie, a lonely human girl. Together, they discover that something terrible has happened to many of the dragons, and together they embark on a quest to rescue them.

This is a lovely, gentle book with a bittersweet ending. The pace is leisurely, but it doesn't drag. I thought the actual quest part went a little too easily, but the best parts of the book are Grisha and Maggie's friendship, and the way the world's magic system works. If you enjoy thoughtful juvenile fantasy, give this one a try. ( )
  foggidawn | Aug 10, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book was just ok for me. I loved the concept behind it but there was a lot lacking I felt. It was very slow to get started and the storyline just kind of dragged with no exciting descriptions or action to keep you going. ( )
  mshawver | Aug 6, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
It took me a little bit to get into The Language of Spells -- I had a bit of a book hangover from my previous read and wasn't really captivated from the first line. But once I was a few chapters in and Grisha leaves the forest, I was totally captivated. I loved watching Grisha's character grow, and I loved his friendship with Maggie.

I followed along eagerly as the dragon and girl begin their quest, but as it went on, it started to feel like certain aspects of their journey were coming too easily. I know it's a children's book, but I needed a little more. It felt like the first three quarters of the book set up for this epic quest that was then tidily wrapped up in the end.

But, while the end was a little disappointing, I still enjoyed my journey with Grisha and Maggie, and would love to explore Vienna with them some more. ( )
  curioussquared | Jul 31, 2018 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Garret Weyrprimary authorall editionscalculated
Harnett, KatieIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Grisha the dragon is born in the Black Forest in 1803, the last year any dragon was born, and while young he was trapped by the emperor's sorcerer, and turned into a teapot, which was frustrating but kept him alive while magic and other dragons were disappearing--until one day he meets Maggie, a poet's daughter, and the two of them set out to discover what happened to all the other dragons.… (more)

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