Book Review: Fleabag and the Ring’s End

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Fleabag and the Ring’s End, by Beth Webb, is the third and final book in the author’s Fleabag trilogy, a fantasy adventure series aimed at 7-11 year olds. I reviewed the first book here and the second book here. This final instalment offers another dose of high octane action, adventure, magic and dragons – along with a reveal of the incorrigible Fleabag’s true name, and how he lost his leg.

The story opens with a young boy, Kern, being hired by Fleabag (who is a three legged talking cat) to play fiddle at the palace Fire Festival. Here Kern meets Phelan the King, Fire Wielder Gemma and her bodyguard, the Princess Rowanne, all of whom played key roles in the previous books in the series. When Kern looks into Rowanne’s eyes he realises that she is the intended recipient of a secret message he has been tasked with delivering by M’Kinnik, the chief wizard at Porthwain where the university is based. The wizards from this establishment draw power from evil, blue magic which the ruling Fire folk believed they had defeated.

A delegation from the university arrives at the palace. They wish to enact a Great Challenge, as the law states anyone may do who believes a ruler or Fire Wielder are unfit to perform their duties. Using sorcery and tricks the wizards force the young Fire folk to accept the challenge immediately. They threaten war if Phelan and Gemma do not travel alone to perform the required tasks at the wizard’s stronghold.

The blue magic is corrupting all it touches. Phelan, Gemma and Fleabag (who was banned from attending but came anyway) are being held as virtual prisoners. As they try to prepare for what is ahead, Rowenna is in mortal danger. Kern tries to help but the wizards seem to anticipate the Fire folks every move.

The action is non stop. The plot twists and turns as skill, strength, wit and wisdom are pitted against tricky magic and those who will stop at nothing to gain power. Even Fleabag must dig his claws into the action, between naps and tummy rubs that is.

There is much to take from this story apart from the compelling tale. Neither good nor evil are absolutes and people are rarely as they first seem. Being entrusted with a task does not mean only that person is capable of carrying it out, yet there may be reluctance to hand on what could lead to personal gain, even for the greater good. Few feel comfortable revealing all their secrets; other’s motives can be difficult to comprehend.

The denouement was unexpected but worked perfectly, especially given the lesson briefly touched upon that omnipotence is a role more than an individual. Of course, I read this as an adult. These books are written for children, and they will adore Fleabag. They will also understand that power contaminates because they experience that amongst their peers every day.

Although the book can be enjoyed standalone it builds on the background offered in the previous instalments. As before, the words are accompanied by illustrations which add to the visual appeal.

A rollicking fantasy adventure that will feed a child’s imagination. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this captivating tale.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the author.

Book Review: Fleabag and the Fire Cat

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Fleabag and the Fire Cat, by Beth Webb, is the second book in a fantasy adventure trilogy aimed at 7-11 year olds. It opens two years after the close of the first book in the series (reviewed here), with Gemma installed in the royal palace at Harflorum but not enjoying her new life. Unbeknownst to her there are forces of evil gathering, infecting her mind with doubts. It soon becomes clear that the safety of the realm is once more in her hands.

In this adventure our heroes must take to the high seas and we are introduced to a new ally, Marcus, captain of Prince Thomas of Beulothin’s flagship. Along with Rowanne, now Princess of Erbwenneth, they set out to rescue their beleaguered Fire Wielder.

And then of course there is Fleabag, as incorrigible as ever. In the two years since we last met he has been busy eating, napping and siring kittens. Although he has kept their wondrousness to himself we soon learn that he is no longer the only talking cat in the kingdom.

One of his offspring, Cleo, joins her father illicitly when he leaves the palace with Gemma for a well earned, but ill conceived, holiday. When things go wrong Cleo befriends Captain Marcus and is taken on board his vessel as the ship’s cat. She helps to smuggle Fleabag when the humans threaten to leave him behind.

As the crew battle the elements to reach Gemma, she is struggling with her own problems. A powerful wizard has invaded her mind, intent on taking the power of the ring fire for himself.

The plot moves along at a cracking pace with non stop action and ever present danger. Fleabag worries about his lack of sufficient breakfasts and naps, determined to help Gemma that she may return to important tasks such as scratching his tummy and offering relief from his fleas.

The dramatic denouement is marvelously written, with home made armour, dragons and a hoard of angry islanders under the wizard’s evil spell. There are lessons to be learned about keeping secrets; poignancy in the dark wizard’s dungeon; but it is the courage and humour that shine through this tale.

If your children enjoy reading of magic, adventure, action and cats then do introduce them to Fleabag. This reworked edition has new illustrations throughout which add to the visual appeal. Young readers are in for a treat.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the author.

Book Review: Fleabag and the Ring Fire

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Fleabag and the Ring Fire, by Beth Webb, is the first book in a fantasy adventure trilogy aimed at 7-11 year olds. It introduces the reader to Gemma the kitchen maid, Rowanne the lady knight, Phelan the thief, and the incorrigible Fleabag, a three legged talking cat. Together this unlikely trio set out on a quest to find the Fire Ring, a symbol of power which has been hidden after the old queen died without naming a successor. Only one who is worthy will be able to find the jewel, and Gemma has been tasked with authenticating it when returned.

Gemma is only ten years old and has never before left the city of Harflorum where she was plucked from the streets as a young child and given a job in the palace kitchens. Her life has not been easy, mainly due to the cruel cook under whom she must work. The responsibilities she has now been given come close to overwhelming her. She does not understand how someone so ordinary can be of importance to the realm.

The mysterious Fire Wielder, who even the queen venerated, tasks Rowanne, a pompous Knight of the Queen’s Guard, with protecting the child. This proves to be a challenge for them both. Gemma’s only friend in the palace was Fleabag, the queen’s disreputable cat. He is a useful ally and advisor to the girl but is hated by Rowanne. The feeling is mutual.

The group set out on a long and difficult journey. They travel through cities where the populace are mistreated by a cruel prince, ignored by pontificating academics, and terrorised by a fearsome beast. Even when their party is joined by Phelan, a boy who chose a life of crime after he was orphaned, they seem little match for the forces they must face. They have a year and a day to find the ring before its magical fire goes out and chaos descends.

In Harflorum, the Fire Wielder placed a little of the ring fire in Gemma’s care. Phelan has some knowledge of this strange force and helps Gemma to use the power she has been given. Gemma recoils from the responsibility, yet steadfastly pursues the task she promised her beloved queen she would complete. The denouement is satisfying with the story being wound up but questions remaining for the next two books in the series to answer.

The writing is straightforward but not simplistic. There is plenty of action to keep this age group engaged. The fabulous illustrations of key characters scattered throughout the text add to the visual appeal. Fleabag is wonderful, a cat of the highest calibre despite appearances.

This is a reworked edition of a story first published in 1995 when it gained many young fans. The text has been tightened and new illustrations added to create a gorgeous book wrapped around a world where magic and dragons are more than just myths.

I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in this tale. A treasure trove for young people, highly recommended.