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*Dandelion Fire: Book Two of the 100 Cupboards* by N.D. Wilson- young readers fantasy book review
Also by N.D. Wilson:

100 Cupboards
Dandelion Fire: Book Two of the 100 Cupboards
by N.D. Wilson
Ages 9-12 480 pages Random House February 2009 Hardcover    

The second book in a planned trilogy, Dandelion Fire continues the story begun in 100 Cupboards of Henry York, a young boy living with his cousins in Kansas. The story opens with Henry learning that his parents have been released by their captors, are getting a divorce, and will be picking him up in two weeks. Upset, Henry seeks to find his real family, which he has learned originate from a magical place behind one of the cupboard doors in his attic bedroom.

While looking for the key to the porthole with his cousin Henrietta, Henry is struck by lightning; he is blinded, and a dandelion fire scar appears on his hand. The magic within Henry grows, and despite the grave dangers, he makes the brave decision to go through the doors to find his true family. Henrietta tries to follow him but gets caught up in a separate world. Their fast-paced adventures involve a confusing struggle between good and evil, numerous imaginative, magical events (disappearing house, evil wizards, etc.) and eventually finding Henry’s true identity.

The best fantasies create a world where the reader naturally suspends his or her disbelief and enjoys and understands the new fantastical new world and characters. Unfortunately, Dandelion Fire falls short of this goal. After reading this book and its predecessor, 100 Cupboards, I found myself struggling to understand the relationships of the characters to one another, the importance of their actions, and the background concerning why so many different events are happening. Although a diagram with a key to the cupboards is provided, it does not explain the worlds within. A map of the various new worlds, a guide to the characters and additional illustrations highlighting key events would help the organization of the book tremendously.

The language of Henry’s grandfather’s journals explaining the cupboards is cryptic, difficult to understand, and not fully explained. Much more time needs to be spent providing insights into why so very many events happen and how they are related. This book must definitely be read in its place in the series; it would be hopelessly confusing without the background of 100 Cupboards.

Although the book contains some religious and ethical allegories and biblical allusions, they are not fully explained or integrated within the story. Moreover, many loose ends are left dangling. Some characters who are important at the beginning are lost toward the end. Henry’s relationship with his earthly parents is not resolved; the impact of the magical world on the earthly characters is not addressed, and the ultimate importance of his christening is not fully explained. Although the idea of the magical cupboards is enticing, and the cover artwork very attractive, the themes of this book – a child seeking the truth about his parents, good versus evil, wizards, etc. - are not unique.

Random House’s companion website,, is enticing. Children can learn a bit about the author and click on cupboard doors to peek into a few different worlds and see letters or parts of letters intended to pique their interest. This book is a best fit for intense fantasy fans who enjoy a lot of action. If looking for a solid fantasy series for middle-grade readers, I much more highly recommend The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott, The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart, and Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan.

The third installment of the “100 Cupboards” trilogy, The Chestnut King, is expected to be published within a year.

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  Kristine Wildner/2009 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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