Sherwood Smith,
Wren to the Rescue
(Yearling, 1990)

Sherwood Smith must be one of the best -- and least appreciated -- young-adult fantasy writers out there. Wren to the Rescue is the first and most light-hearted of the Wren trilogy (followed by Wren's Quest and Wren's War).

It introduces the usual cast: an orphan, a princess, a prince and a magician. However, the characters are all fleshed out unusually well. Wren is one of the most spirited and loyal characters I've ever read; Teressa has been in hiding for all of her life, pretending to be an orphan, and is only beginning to take up her duties as a princess; Connor is the youngest prince of a long line, landless and a failure at magic; Tyron is a chief worrier, talented young magician and heir to the most powerful magician in the kingdom.

When Teressa is kidnapped by the suave King Andreus of the neighboring country Senna Lirwan, her best friend Wren knows she has to do something. Accompanied by Tyron, risking his position as heir, and Connor (who accidentally turned one of the masters into a turtle in the middle of a magic test), any number of wild adventures find them. There are the "baddiepeepers" (Wren's word for Andreus' spies), the chraucans (huge, antisocial birds) and warrie beasts (human-eating creatures), bandits, powerful magicians who may or may not be on their side and dozens of magical traps, including one that turns Wren into a dog that, if not removed soon, will make her one permanently.

Hurtling along at breakneck speed, Wren to the Rescue is a thoroughly enjoyable adventure quest fantasy. The characters are likable, though Wren can occasionally be a bit too relentlessly upbeat and Teressa is a little bland.

Smith is adept at recreating the dialogue of real children, and the dialogue is consistently good. The world-building is equally consistent. There's nothing objectionable, and fantasy readers of all ages will be delighted with Wren's adventures. Although the trilogy isn't as polished as Smith's Crown & Court Duet, it should be very enjoyable for anyone who likes Tamora Pierce, Patricia Wrede and Lloyd Alexander. A nice series to contrast the Wren trilogy with is Pierce's The Magic Circle Quartet, which also deals with a foursome of younger protagonists.

by Jennifer Mo
25 November 2006

Buy it from