________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 21 . . . . June 23, 2006


The Burning Crown. (Serpent's Egg Trilogy, Bk. 2).

J. Fitzgerald McCurdy.
Toronto, ON: HarperCollins, 2001/2006.
428 pp., pbk., $7.99.
ISBN 0-00-639334-9.

Grades 5-9 / Ages 10-14.

Review by Ann Ketcheson.

*** /4


A movement at the edge of his range of vision distracted him momentarily. By the time he switched his attention back to the Wizard Indolent, it was too late. The blue flaming ball whammed into him with the force of a giant's fist, lifting him off the ground and flinging him backwards. He heard Miranda scream as he collapsed on his back on the ground, frantically slapping his cloak to put out the fire.

But, he was back on his feet in an instant. "I said it was over." Then he thumped the ground with the blunt end of the Druid staff. White sparks erupted from the pale wood and spread from end to end, turning the staff into a long white flame. As Miranda watched, the smoke rising from Naim's singed cloak turned the white burning staff the colour of blood. Naim raised his arm and spun the staff as if it were a baton. Faster and faster it whirled, until it formed a solid shield of fire.

The Burning Crown is the sequel to The Serpent's Egg and the second book in J. Fitzgerald McCurdy's fantasy trilogy. In this novel, the Demon Hate is imprisoned and can only be released by using the Elven crown. It is up to Miranda to travel to the Dark Lands and capture the crown in time for the coronation of the true King of the Elves, Elester. Since whoever is crowned with the official crown becomes the undisputed ruler, Miranda's mission is vital.

     Once again, McCurdy throws the reader into a complete yet utterly fantastic 'other world' populated by dragons, elves, dwarves, trolls, evil winged hunters and other strange creatures. Battle scenes and chase scenes abound and the entire book is a long adventure filled with excitement, danger and suspense for the young fan of fantasy fiction. At the end, McCurdy neatly closes the plot but leaves the door open for the continuation of the saga:      

Poor Dauthus. Poor misguided fool. He thought he was so important to Hate's plans - so busy giving orders that he never, for a second, suspected that the Demon had another plan. The Dwarf patted one of his pockets and felt the small black egg. Then, hissing with pleasure, he kicked the huge creature beside him. It was time to meet Mathus and find a way off Ellesmere Island.

     McCurdy uses the same cast of characters in this novel: Miranda, the 10-year-old hero, her friends Nick, Arabelle (Belle), and Penelope (complete with dog, Muffy) and the Druid, Naim. Again the characters of Miranda's friends seem rather one-dimensional and do not really develop over the course of the novel. They do, however, play somewhat larger roles in this book and are more independent of the main character. The grade four teacher, Mr. Little, also reappears, but the circumstances show him simply as a fool again in this book.

     The first 200 pages of the book are set in Ottawa and the Gatineau Hills, specifically Kingsmere, the estate of Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon McKenzie King, where there is a portal into the magic world of Ellesmere. This is a nice touch, given King's enthusiasm for crystal balls and conversing with the spirit world.

     Once again, McCurdy has come up with a fast-paced adventure story which will appeal to pre-teen or young teen fantasy readers. What it lacks in characterization and depth, it makes up for in excitement and a plot with plenty of twists and turns.


Ann Ketcheson is a former teacher-librarian and teacher of high school English and French. She lives in Ottawa, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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