by Patricia Wrede
New York : Scholastic Books, 1995, c1985.
Daystar has lived with his mother at the edge of the Enchanted Forest, seeing princes and heroes stop by briefly in their questing. When the wizard Antorell shows up, however, things are a bit different. For one thing, his mother melts Antorell. For another, she goes in to the Forest and comes back with a sword about which she tells him little, just that he has to go in to the forest and figure out why he needs to be there. So Daystar sets out.
I had a tough time thinking of Daystar as a believable sixteen-year-old. In addition to being unfailingly polite, just like his mother taught him, he's incredibly naive. I suppose I would be too if I'd lived with my mother at the edge of the forest and didn't really make friends with anybody, but it was a tough hurdle that I never really got over as I read his narration. Shiara, the fire-witch that Daystar meets in his travels, was a fun character that I liked despite, or maybe because of, her temper and willfulness.
This is the fourth chronologically in the "Enchanted Forest Chronicles," but I had no trouble following the story even though it has been a few years since I read the others in the series. A friend informed me after I finished it that it was actually published before the others, which makes perfect sense to me in terms of how the story is told and what Daystar discovers - things that readers of the books in chronological order already knew. Unfortunately, it means that no matter what order you read them in, one book is going to be a spoiler for another. All in all, the series was a fun one that plays with conventional fantasy tropes, and I would recommend it to upper elementary or middle school fantasy readers. My personal favorite is still the first one I read (and the first chronologically), Dealing with Dragons.