And Then I Read: THE DRAGONS OF ORDINARY FARM by Tad Williams and Deborah Beale


© The Beale-Williams Enterprise.

In the wake of “Harry Potter,” many writers of fantasy for children have tried to capture that magic: a well-realized and appealing world, characters kids can believe and identify with, a story full of great ideas, intricate mysteries, danger, excitement and thrills. Here’s one I actually like better than Harry.

I should begin by saying that, while I’ve never met or exchanged words with Tad Williams, we have worked together when I lettered the AQUAMAN comic he wrote for DC. I’ve never read any of his books, but when I learned of this one in a LOCUS interview, I thought it sounded good, and bought it.

There are three children who are the focus of this story. Colin lives at the strange place called Ordinary Farm, where all kinds of animals that we would call mythical are kept, alive and mostly well. Ordinary Farm is owned by an old man named Gideon Goldring, but it was largely built by an eccentric scientist/inventor many years earlier. The mythic animals are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the unusual qualities of Ordinary Farm, tucked away in a secluded valley in central California somewhere, but Colin is not happy there. And even less so when he learns Gideon has invited two children, related to his long-lost wife, to come visit for the summer.

Tyler and Lucinda are not thrilled about the idea either. They’d rather spend their summer at home, with their single Mom and their own friends rather than be shipped off to some remote farm, where they’ll have to do all kinds of hard work, no doubt. But their Mom loves the idea when it’s offered to her in a letter from an uncle she didn’t even know she had, and off the kids go.

Once on the farm, surrounded by odd people, lots of restrictions and rules, and the ill-will of Colin, Tyler rebels by sneaking out and trying to discover just what exactly is going on at this farm, where so much is forbidden, hidden from view, and mysterious. Even the farm building itself behaves oddly, sometimes an endless series of corridors and rooms that lead nowhere, sometimes getting him right where he wants to be. And Tyler succeeds quite well, discovering a flying monkey, a haunted library, a gigantic sick dragon, and more. Meanwhile, Lucinda falls under the spell of Colin’s mother, who seems to be a rather dangerous witch.

I could go on, but will simply say this book is a great read. I enjoyed every moment of it, loved the characters, the plot, and the entire concept. It’s a long book, in the “Harry Potter” mode, and at the end leaves plenty of set-ups for sequels. If they come, I’ll be getting them. Highly recommended!

The Dragons of Ordinary Farm by Williams and Beale

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