Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Muddle Earth by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell

Randalf the Wise is Muddle Earth's Leading Wizard. Unfortunately, since he is also currently the *only* wizard on Muddle Earth, that isn't saying much. So when a threat to Muddle Earth arises, Randalf relies on his only spell and summons a champion from beyond. Instead, he gets Joe, an ordinary Earth Schoolboy, and his dog, Henry.

Joe wants nothing more than to return home to the bosom of his family, and to bring his dog with him. Unfortunately for Joe, bringing Joe to Muddle Earth used up the only spell that Randalf knows, and with the other wizards gone, Joe is rather stuck here. Even though he promises to find a way to send Joe home, in the meantime, Joe is the champion of Muddle Earth, meaning its up to him to deal with the threats to the land and its people, including "Dr. Cuddles", The Horned Baron- the ruler of Muddle Earth, and his even more fearsome wife, Ingrid.

With the forces of Randalf, Norbert the Not-Very-Big, (a tiny (for his race) three-eyed Ogre), Randalf's familiar, a parrot named Veronica and of course, his dog Henry, Joe will have to tramp the highways and byways of Muddle Earth to return it to its formerly happy state while overcoming the Baron, Dr. Cuddles, and Ingrid.

In the first book, Ingrid, the Dark Lord's wife, wants nothing more than singing curtains for her boudoir. But husband's efforts to acquire the curtains lead to tragedy for the land, and it's up to Jpe and crew to set things to rights, even if it deprives Ingrid of her precious and much-wanted curtains.

In the Second Book, Cutlery from all over Muddle Earth is disappearing, and it's up to Joe to find out why. And Ingrid's tea party will simply be ruined if she doesn't have all the tea-spoons, cake forks, sugar tongs and whatnots that such a party requires. But when a dragon named Margot enters the picture, will Joe suddenly find himself outmatched?

The Third Book, Dr. Cuddles of Giggle Glade, has Joe finally taking off to find Dr. Cuddles himself, who has kidnapped Ingrid, the Horned Baron's wife, and is scheming to take over the whole of Muddle Earth, as well as imprisoning all the other wizards in the land. But this time, Joe has the help of Brenda, Warrior Princess, and maybe, just maybe, one of the other wizards will have the magical chops to finally send Joe back home where he belongs. But who, or what, is Dr. Cuddles, and how will his evil schemes finally be overthrown?

Needless to say, this series is a parody of the whole Lord of the Rings Saga, but in this, everything is played for fun. The Horned Baron isn't really a bad sort, but he'll do anything to make his wife, Ingrid, shut up. Even fairly evil things. And that's not a surprise considering she's sharp and shrill and demanding. It's funny that a man so feared is henpecked, and at the end, he manages to escape the duties of his position by running off with the woman he really loves, Fifi, a goblin lounge singer.

In fact, in the end, everybody gets the things they really want, even Joe. At the beginning of the book, he's taking his dog for a walk to get an idea for what he wants to write for a class project, and in the end, he has three adventures to write about. Even Randalf has a chance to be a real wizard, and the wizards themselves are freed from Dr. Cuddles and his dreaded giggle squad. It's a cute parody, and even if its more a parody of overblown sword and sorcery epics rather than just Lord of the Rings, its brilliantly done for kids and may get them laughing even if they have never read the original.

It's less LOTR and more "The Edge Chronicles", and that's fitting because The Edge Chronicles were pretty much the next thing the two authors wrote together. But it's an interesting, if silly, world, and the story will even amuse adults, especially if they have read Lord of the Rings or like Sword and Sorcery type tales. Well done, if very, very silly. Recommended.

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