The Wizard, The Witch, and Two Girls From Jersey by Lisa Papademetriou
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Parody, Goofy As Hell
Rating: Adorable out of 5 stars
Summary: Veronica is a brilliant fantasy nerd who has loved the classic The Queen of Twilight since she was a kid. Heather is a beautiful popular girl who has never even heard of this weird nerd book. When an assignment on the book is due the next day, a fight over the last copy at a Barnes and Noble (plus a strangely malfunctioning barcode scanner) ends up with both girls transported to Galma, the fictional land featured in The Queen of Twilight. They immediately screw up the plot by accidentally causing the death of the golden-haired Princess Arabelle, “The One”: Galma’s only hope of defeating the evil Queen who keeps the land trapped in twilight. Thanks to Heather’s new highlights, however, the two girls manage to fit themselves into the story…
As the back cover says: “Galma is, like, totally doomed.”
I first read this book a few years ago. I remembered it being really hilarious.
It’s still really hilarious.
This book is really not particularly well-written (although Papademetriou shows some obvious potential in that department. I believe she just created a style that would match the book) nor insightful, but it isn’t trying to be. This book knows what it’s doing, and it does it very well. In the world of the book (the “real” world, anyway) all fantasy books that we ourselves know and love exist. Veronica makes specific references to The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Golden Compass, The Chronicles of Narnia, Redwall, The Wizard of Oz, and probably a few others. In the book, however, we are to consider that The Queen of Twilight should also be included on this list of well-known fantasy novels.
But really, The Queen of Twilight is just Lord of the Rings with some Narnia thrown in. The point is that these girls are supposed to be sucked into The Lord of the Rings, but obviously the author couldn’t ACTUALLY make it LotR because then it would just be a terrible fanfiction.
…okay, this book is kind of just terrible fanfiction, but in the BEST WAY POSSIBLE.
When the girls land in Galma, they get caught up with a fight between the Fragile Hag (otherwise known as the Duchess of Breakable Objects), who can turn people into glass statues. Because they’re in the way, Princess Arabelle gets turned to glass. And because Heather has zero hand-eye coordination, she hurls the incredibly important Orb of Neftalion into Arabelle and shatters her. Whoops. Luckily (or unluckily), after that everyone assumes Heather is the princess.
The girls soon meet their quest mates: The wizard Strathorn (yeah, he’s basically Gandalf), an elf named Doggett (he’s a Kiblar elf, which means he’s short and is good at cooking. As opposed to Sylvan elves, who are the tall, pretty ones, Doggett’s kind are known for baking cookies in trees–yes, really. He’s mostly Sam Gamgee with a dash of Dobby), and Chattergee (who is Reepicheep, except a squirrel, and really, really annoying).
I’m a huge fan of all of the characters in this book. Despite the fact that they are basically all walking tropes, they still managed to surprise me now and then. Veronica has loved reading since she was a little girl, and The Queen of Twilight is her favorite. So she knows all the characters, all the places, everything that’s *supposed* to happen in the plot, and she tries to keep the story on track.
But from the beginning, her main goal is to get home. She has an adorably close family whom she knows must be worried, and while she takes moments now and then to appreciate being in the fantasy world she’s dreamed of for so long, most of the time she just wants to get out alive. It’s a surprisingly realist mindset for a fantasy nerd. In a way, it made her character less relatable. I mean, if I got sucked into LotR, I’m pretty sure I would never want to leave… until I realized there were no showers or bathrooms or computers and that everyone had awful teeth and really, there is so much walking involved… but still!
Veronica actually takes the backseat to Heather, which was also surprising. At first I thought Heather was going to be there for comedy purposes only. I mean, as cool as it is to see a nerd get sucked into her favorite book, it’s way more hilarious to see this bitchy oblivious girl get sucked into a fantasy book she’s never read. At first she is incredibly vapid and unlikeable, but (predictabtly) as the journey goes on and Heather has to go to further lengths to pretend to be Princess Arabelle, she really starts to roll with the punches. About halfway through (probably at about the time that she and Doggett become adorable friends), she became my favorite character.
The story brings you through a few classic moves, usually with a twist. Veronica spends a great deal of the book dreading a the giant spider attack she knows will come, which turns out to be very different than she expects. The same goes for a scene where Ibharn (a Sylvan elf who is Legolas in the book, but actually a huge prick when they meet him who decides not to go on the quest because it would be beneath him to travel with Doggett) is supposed to slay the terrible dragon Karn for them so that they can obtain the Sword of the Defiance. This turns out to be completely unnecessary, however.
I’ll just say it. KARN. GAH. I don’t mean to be spoilery, but really, the way they lead up to it you KNOW there’s going to be something up with this dragon. I. LOVE. KARN. He is a cutie-cute-sweetie-pie! Think THIS. I was so happy when Heather decided to keep him as a pet.
Anyway, Veronica often talks about how the author of The Queen of Twilight (Fabiella Banks–love it) exaggerated or failed to properly describe certain elements of Galma. It’s mostly for comedy purposes (one of my favorite scenes was when they reach Lothlorien–wherever–and it turns out that elf songs are REALLY LONG and BORING), but I think it opens up some interesting ideas about how much control an author really has over his own stories, and how people interpret them.
And THAT’S as intellectual as I’m going to get about this book. Ahem. I love that a lot of things have goofy names that are taken absolutely seriously within the context of the story, like “The Helmet of Unsmellability” and the “Countess of Uncomfortable Humidity.” Lolz.
Obviously the quest leads up to a final battle against the army of the evil queen (primarily made up of “Ookies,” lol), which is actually kind of dull. The actual climax comes before that when Heather decides to come clean about not actually being the princess, and the choices she makes after that. I also really enjoy how she and Veronica realize they have become friends, despite having nothing in common except their insane adventure.
I would say the only shortcomings of the book are a few jokes that are just TOO obvious. Heather complaining about her manicure getting messed up while running from the Nazgul (or whatever they’re call in this book, but you know, the Nazgul) got a little old, for example. But for all the jokes that were just plain dumb, there were plenty more that were pretty clever.
-Some pretty interesting surprises, despite being a book based on its own predictability
-I LOVE KARN
-It’s dumb. (But in a great way!)
Basically, if you’re a fantasy fan, you’ve got a free couple of hours and you want to turn your brain off and just enjoy something, I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s certainly not the pinnacle of 21st century literature, but it made me laugh, and that can be just as good.
Just because, here’s one of my favorite passages from the books. It’s a description of the Sylvan elves, and I think it’s a good representation of the way Papademetriou’s tone changes from fantastic to realistic (i.e. goofy) between lines, as well as her obvious love for creating fantasy worlds as much as she enjoys lampooning them:
What captured Heather’s attention was the elves’ faces. She had never read Queen of Twilight and therefore had an image in her mind based loosely on a combination of the Lord of the Rings movies and the Claymation Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Christmas special. But these elves were like nothing she had ever pictured. For one thing, they were about as far from Doggett as could be imagined. They were a good two to three feet taller than he was and slender where he was stocky. And their hair was white. Not platinum blond or ash blond or any kind of blond you’ve ever seen, but white as a page of fresh copy paper and luminous, like the fire in an opal. Heather could tell that there were two males and two females, but their hair was all cut short and stuck out around their faces like flower petals. And their skin–it was a rich, honeyed shade of brown that made Heather think at once of antelope and cafe au lait and many other things that were soft and sweet and wonderful. Their eyes were green, but not the green of a jewel. Instead, they were the shocking green of a pine branch in a snowy landscape.
They were so beautiful that Heather would have felt sick even if she wasn’t in a strange forest and frightened and streaked with mud and dirt and pretending to be a princess she knew nothing about.