Friday, December 30, 2011

The Robe of Skulls by Vivian French illustrated by Ross Collins

This book is like a very fizzy drink. It is effervescent. The plot just gallops along filled with fabulous evil characters and special heroes all leading to an ending that is totally satisfying.

A Grade 5 student raved about this book and the other three in the series so I was keen to read this one over the summer. This afternoon I thought I might just read the first chapter. Three hours later I finished the whole book! If you have been reading my blog you will know this means I thoroughly enjoyed The Robe of Skulls.

The story opens with Lady Lamorna preparing an order for the dress of her dreams. Black velvet, red petticoats, rows and rows of skulls along the hemline and embroidered with spiders and poison ivy. Does Lady Lamorna sound evil? Of course she does but surprisingly she is by no means the most evil character in the kingdom. That role falls to Foyce “when you looked into her eyes it made your bones go icy cold.” You can read part of the first chapter here.

Foyce and Mange, another evil character, have taken Gracie as a slave. One day, when she is desperately trying to make a meal out water, a little bat arrives with the promise of freedom, adventure and a better life.

Correct me if I am wrong,’ said the bat, ‘but would the main ingredient of water soup be water?’ Gracie nodded. ‘I do use hot water and cold water. It doesn’t make much difference to the taste, though.’”

Meanwhile two young Princes are living in a nearby castle and are training to take on their royal duties. Prince Arioso is studious and compliant but his twin brother Marcus, just ten minutes younger, is bold and desperate for adventure. Mysteriously their tutor Professor Scallio seems to have plans for Marcus which involve a forbidden map.

Our little bat, called Marlon, draws these characters together and, along with the three Ancient Crones, everyone arrives at a very satisfactory place except perhaps Foyce and Mange.

If you enjoy Robe of Skulls you will need to read the three sequels and then find Which Witch by Eva Ibbotson and The Starkin Crown by Kate Forsyth. I rarely say this but Harry Potter fans will enjoy this book too.

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