Jane Yolen,
Wizard's Hall
(Harcourt, 1991; Magic Carpet, 1999)

Before there was Harry Potter, there was Thornmallow!

Jane Yolen has written many charming and evocative tales of wonder over the years, and now with all the well-deserved fuss over J.K. Rowling and her Harry Potters, fans young and old of the genre will love Yolen's 1991 effort, Wizard's Hall. In many ways similar to the Potters, this short, very quick read supplies us with Yolen's usual well-defined and entirely likeable characters. It likewise boasts a fast-paced, not overly complex plot, and Yolen's typical wit and humor are as ever, right on target.

Thornmallow, his friends and enemies are all cut from the same rich fabric as the other grand mages of literature, from Merlin to ubiquitous Potter. A great break between or after the Rowling books, you'll read this without disappointment. Aimed at preteens (but as usual with Yolen, with some more advanced vocabulary thrown in --- the reading teacher in me just has to love an author who actually tries to expand vocabulary while endlessly entertaining her audience), this should not be overlooked by older mavens of humourous fantasy. (There's also some ethics education going on here, but Yolen is never pedantic, so, SHH! Don't tell anybody!)

by Stephen Richmond
19 November 2005

Buy it from Amazon.com.