The Language of Spells

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Grisha is a dragon in a world that's forgotten how to see him. Maggie is a unusual child who thinks she's perfectly ordinary. They're an unlikely duo—but magic, like friendship, is funny. Sometimes it chooses those who might not look so likely. And magic has chosen Grisha and Maggie to solve the darkest mystery in Vienna. Decades ago, when World War II broke out, someone decided that there were too many dragons for all of them to be free. As they investigate, Grisha and Maggie ask the question everyone's forgotten: Where have the missing dragons gone? And is there a way to save them? At once richly magical and tragically historical, The Language of Spells is a novel full of adventure about remembering old stories, forging new ones, and the transformative power of friendship. 

Hardcover, 256 pages

Expected publication: June 26th 2018 by Chronicle Books



My Review:


This is a dragon’s tale set during and post the World Wars with a European backdrop. Thus, an unexpected setting, it is a whimsical read for young middle graders about friendship and survival during authoritarian rule. 

Grisha was born a very special dragon. He loved his childhood among the forest and others of his kind. Far away seemed the idea that anything could ever happen that would change his peaceful life. But when an evil sorcerer turns him into a teapot, his whole being stays froze for many, many years. Passed down from owner to owner and being sold and resold, he has no idea what is happening to all the other dragons and his family in the land. 

Maggie is 11 years old and lives with her father in the Sacher hotel in Vienna, Austria. Unusual, but there also is nothing usual about her. She is of the quirky sort, brilliant, but has a hard time making friends. 

When Maggie and Grisha meet and become friends, they learn of what has happened to the other dragons and of the Department of Extinct Exotics (D.E.E.) that is run by cats…or rather humans that can shape-shift into cats magically. Since the WWII some years ago, dragons have been removed and oppressed. There are strict rules about the ones that are remaining in the city and those that have been deported. 

This takes the two unlikely friends on an adventure throughout Europe and full circle back home to realize and understand how to free the other dragons. Along their path they must solve riddles, be careful to avoid looming dangers, magic spells and the DEE. Despite the trials and time running out, the friendship and trust of Maggie and Grisha becomes a big part of the storytelling that will appeal to any child that has ever loved magical stories of adventure and believed in something beyond the real world. 


I thought this was a darling book perfect for young readers. Still magical enough for the young, yet beyond a small chapter book to enjoy. 

Unlike other reviews of this book, I do not believe it was paralleling the story line of the WW’s. According to the books timeline, it goes way beyond those years by 30 years or so. However, I do believe it took on the idea of living things (dragons) being treated unfairly. It would be a gentle introduction in the subject of power, leadership and liberty no matter where in the world. 

Besides the implications of a world in unrest, I thought the idea of the mid 20th century setting with dragons in Europe was darling. Whimsical and exotic in a way. The foreign cities will perhaps encourage young readers to find out more of these countries or simply become fantasy readers in the making. I thought it a lovely read. 

I received a digital copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange of an honest review. All opinions are my own. Thank you!