________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 41. . . .June 20, 2014


Swordspell. (Frogspell, Bk. 4).

C. J. Busby. Illustrated by David Wyatt.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2014.
169 pp., pbk., $6.99 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4431-2480-5.

Grades 3-5 / Ages 8-10.

Review by Meredith Harrison-Lim.

*** /4



“He’s going to kill the king!” said Olivia. “Max! We’ve got to do something!”

Before Max could say anything she had vaulted over the barrier and was running onto the ground. Max followed, with Lancelot beside him, taking great long strides toward the king. On the other side of the green, Max could see Merlin, who had obviously realized what had happened at exactly the same time as they had, running toward the knights and shouting in his commanding voice, “Stop! Stop the fight!”

But they were too slow, too far away.

Arthur seemed to have realized that he was fighting against Excalibur. He was defending himself desperately, but Gawaine was strong and fast and clever, and he had the most powerful magical sword in the kingdom. Gawaine had Arthur on the ground, now, his shield shattered. He raised Excalibur with both hands, and, just as Merlin roared, “No!” he brought it down and plunged it into Arthur’s chest.


Swordspell is the last book in the four-part “Frogspell” series by C.J. Busby, regarding 11-year-old Max Pendragon, his nine-year-old sister Olivia, and their pets, the rat Ferocious and the dragon Aldophus, as they try to stop Lady Morgana le Fay’s plans to steal the throne of Camelot. In this book, Max and Olivia are days away from the Festival of Chivalry where Olivia will fight to win the Squire’s Challenge so that she might gain her parents’ approval to train as a knight. While Olivia trains, Max is learning how to identify the spells of others with the help of the wizard Merlin. When Merlin is suddenly called away, they are on guard against Morgana’s scheming. Unfortunately, even when the siblings and their friends realize that Morgana has performed a swordspell that will likely result in dire events during the King’s Cup, King Arthur’s trust in his sister triumphs over Merlin’s warnings. Morgana initially appears to have succeeded in removing Arthur from the throne without bringing suspicion unto herself; however, a quest ensues when the spectators realize that King Arthur has disappeared. What seems to be a simple matter of ensuring that the Pendragon family and their friends locate King Arthur before Morgana’s co-conspirators are able to do so quickly evolves into a more difficult challenge. Max and Merlin must combine their magical abilities to defeat Morgana once and for all while Olivia, Sir Bertram and Lancelot must fight for their lives depending on their physical aptitudes.

     This final instalment provides a satisfying and event-filled close to the “Frogspell” series for younger and older audiences. Characters are featured working together in order to accomplish objectives, particularly in the case of Merlin and Max who depend on one another to defeat Morgana. However, overall this book seemed to be lacking a clear lesson that prior books in the series contained. New characters were once again brought in, with Gawain, the older brother of Olivia’s nemesis Mordred, playing a key role in both the successes of Morgana la Fey and the Pendragons. Additionally, readers familiar with the Arthurian legend will be satisfied with the introduction of Guinevere to the “Frogspell” cast. Almost all the featured characters from the series return in Swordspell to provide Max and Olivia assistance in some way in defeating Lady Morgana la Fey.

     C.J. Busby again demonstrates skill at ensuring that the plot is appropriately paced and engaging to the audience while still providing enough detail to describe the events fully. This final chapter to the series is the most event-filled “Frogspell” book, with numerous obstacles arising throughout. Readers will be satisfied with how anticipated events proceed, such as the long awaited Squire’s Challenge. Hopefully readers will, in turn, look up more traditional Camelot legends and appreciate learning about the basis for characters central in the “Frogspell” series. David Wyatt continues to illustrate the series, depicting events with small black and white illustrations at the beginning of each chapter. While these images are spaced out throughout the book, they may be a good respite for young readers who are challenging their reading abilities with this book. Overall, readers will be content with how Max and Olivia have resolved their personal challenges and difficulties, as well as reading how Lady Morgana and Snotty Hogsbottom’s evil plans are brought to light and finally overcome.


Meredith Harrison-Lim is a MLIS graduate working for the Federal Government in the National Capital Region.

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

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ISSN 1201-9364
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