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*The Chestnut King: Book 3 of the 100 Cupboards* by N.D. Wilson- young readers book review
The Chestnut King: Book 3 of the 100 Cupboards
by N.D. Wilson
Grades 4-7 496 pages Random House January 2010 Hardcover    

A wondrous and fitting conclusion to the 100 Cupboards series, N.D. Wilson’s The Chestnut King: Book 3 of the 100 Cupboards is a fantasy novel of the first order in a series that should be recognized as one of the best-written YA fantasy series ever written.

We follow twelve-year-old Henry York Maccabee’s adventures traveling from world to world via the doors of a magical cupboard, from Kansas to Hylfing, in his efforts to stop the evil Witch of Endor from sucking the very essence out of all living things in his world and destroying his family.

But, how does one kill a being that is like death itself? How, when the best his father, Mordecai, could do was to contain the witch in a stony underground prison? And even if he can help to put an end to the Witch of Endor’s evil, can he do it before the poison coursing through him after being infected in his jaw by the witch’s blood makes him one of her servants?:
The gray scar had grown. At the very first, it had been a pock the size of his pinkie tip, a burn from a drop of the witch’s blood, and much smaller pocks around it when the blood had spattered. Now there was just one scar more than an inch across, and blood had leaked out of the center.
Henry’s skills, both innate and learned over the course of the series, are a definite help to him in his battle against Nimiane, the Witch of Endor, and her minions, like Coradin and the other fingerlings - ten men with fingers attached by the witch’s magic to the back of their heads. Hidden by their hair, the fingers belonged to other victims of Nimiane, and she uses them to control the fingerlings as if they were marionettes.

Henry has learned to use a magic of his own. His father can call on the magic of grapes and grapevines; Henry has the power of dandelions at his control. Though it might not sound like the greatest skill or power, it’s actually a pretty cool one.

Henry has what resembles a tattoo or brand of a dandelion on one of his forearms, and he can utilize the strength he gets from calling on the power of the Earth and dandelions to more widely open up doorways between his world and Kansas, to combat the fingerlings; to protect his cousin Henrietta and his friend Zeke, to walk through the dreams of the Witch of Endor, and to help his father and and Uncle Caleb battle her later in the book.

There are quite a few aunts, uncles, cousins, and siblings to try to keep up with in this novel and the series, and subplots involving them with little background given to either refresh the readers’s memories or to allow someone who is new to the series to catch up and get into the plot.

On the other hand, if an author provides too much background and summarizations of what happened previously, many fans also complain about that. Regardless, there is so much action going on in The Chestnut King: Book 3 of the 100 Cupboards, and the plot and subplots so interesting, that even if one is new to the series, it doesn’t take very long to get into the story.

Both subplots follow the fates of some of Henry’s other relatives after they are split up when the emperor’s soldiers attack Hyfling and burn down Mordecai’s house after throwing Henrietta back into it. Henry’s blind Grandmother Anastasia is also in the house. Henry rushes into it to do what he can to save them, and Rags, his raggant (a winged pet with a blunt horn on its forehead).

That’s when Henry first encounters Coradin and another fingerling who also enter the burning house to prevent the escape of the people trapped within. Henry’s defeat of the other fingerling and his escape with his cousin and grandmother through a cupboard on the house’s roof is one of the early highlights of the novel.

The second subplot involves the efforts of Franklin Fat-Faerie (or Fat Frank) to protect all of Mordecai’s family and then the ones he can help who jump out of a wagon transporting Henry’s relatives - Una, Isa, Penelope, Aunt Dotty and Anastasia - and his friend Richard after Franklin attacks the soldiers guarding it. He only manages to rescue Una, Richard, and Anastasia, however; the wagon carries the others through the city’s gates.

The Chestnut King: Book 3 of the 100 Cupboards is an action-packed conclusion to the series, following 100 Cupboards and Dandelion Fire. The only way Henry can hope to succeed is to go to the Chestnut King of the title, and ask for his aid. Though the Chestnut King, the leader of the Faeren people, agrees to join forces with Henry, it is for a price. Henry doesn’t have much of a choice - he needs the Chestnut King’s help, but he worries that the price might be too high for him to pay. Does Henry succeed? What is the price the Chestnut King demands? Like Dorothy, will Henry ever make it back to Kansas? Check out The Chestnut King: Book 3 of the 100 Cupboards to find out!
Young readers book reviews for ages 8 to 12 years old

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  Douglas R. Cobb/2010 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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