I first discovered Garth Nix with his Old Kingdom Trilogy (Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorsen), and found that he had a distinct flavor to his books that I found alluring and intelligent. While I thoroughly enjoyed the Old Kingdom Trilogy, I never got into any of his other series or novels, perhaps due to Nix’s focus on story and lack of complex character dynamics.
So when I picked up his latest novel Frogkisser! I was unsurprised to find these same traits inherent throughout the story. Despite somewhat flat characters and a distant tone, I found this book charming and enjoyable. In fact, his use of uninteresting characters helped create a cohesive tone throughout the book. It felt like reading a drawn-out, very detailed, comical children’s fairytale.
Let me preface my review with this warning: do not take this book too seriously. It is sometimes slow, and silly, and definitely a just-for-fun read. Nix took fairytale clichés and used them in particularly obvious ways that poked fun at more traditional uses. I loved the reasons Nix gave for the evil sorcerer clichéd cackle, the use of Quests (v. quests), the retelling of Snow White (not a princess), and the beautiful and hilarious portrayal of dogs.
Dogs play a huge role in this book, both in plot and character, and really help to drive the story forward and bring life to the pages. Nix captured all the lovable, infuriating, and odd characteristics of man’s best friend, and anyone that is a dog-lover or even likes dogs a little bit, will find themselves giggling at Ardent and the other royal dogs through to the end.
While this book begins quite slowly, it picks up about three-quarters of the way through, and ends quite decently. Personally, I think it would be ideal for reading aloud (lots of fun voices to do). Younger children, and adults will love the comical fairytale world Nix has created, I know I did, and I hope to see more like this from him in the future!