Halloween seems like a good time to talk about witches.

The Perilous Realm is of course teeming with witches of all kinds. Good witches, wicked witches, so-so witches. Sorceresses and sybils. Elf-witches of terrible power. Witches that fly with the aid of broomsticks and those that fly without any help from common household items. Fake witches with painted faces and warts glued on. Werewitches (men that turn into witches) and witchwolves (witches that turn into wolves, or is it the other way around? I can never remember). White witches and scarlet witches. Kitchen witches, weather witches, sandwiches. Crones, hags and beldames. Creepy old ladies who live alone in houses, and all the kids in town think they're witches, and you know what, some of them are.

The most famous witch, perhaps, is the witch in the story of Hansel and Gretel. Her real name was Caramelita Gumdrop. Some say she didn't actually die when Gretel shoved her into the oven -- it just slowed her down a little, giving Hansel and Gretel time to escape. She managed to crawl back out of the oven, and though it took her a while to recover from the severe burns (about three hundred years, I'm told) eventually she was back to her old tricks. Although she discovered that gingerbread was no longer very popular for enticing children, and so she built a house of chocolate. But this didn't work, because kids had wised up considerably by then. They knew that a house of candy in the middle of the woods was just too good to be true, and they stayed away. It didn't matter what she stuck to the outside of her house -- gum, licorice, toys, i-pods -- kids had gotten too smart, and they didn't fall for it.

So the witch was forced to change her diet, from children to adults. Instead of using candy and treats, though, she plastered the outside of her cottage with posters that claimed she could teach you the secrets of getting rich. The grown-ups fell for it every time.

ice dragons

Long ago, when much of the Perilous Realm was locked in a neverending winter, the ice dragons ruled. They were mighty creatures, powerful and unpredictable. Few humans ever saw them, for they dwelt only in the most frozen, inaccessible regions.  Nor were they interested in gold or treasure or in capturing princesses, like their more avaricious and meddlesome cousins, the dragons of fire.

Those few storyfolk who dared travel in the lands of ice brought back tales of huge winged shapes that left blizzards of frost in their wake, of avalanches that had the power to change direction and even charge uphill, of lakes that would suddenly freeze over, or just as suddenly crack apart and plunge travelers into the icy water.

There are those who say that the glaciers we see today are the sleeping bodies of these mighty beings, and that although their kingdom has shrunk much from what it once was, they may still be roused from their slumber. Even as it withers away and dies, ice is a magnificent and dangerous phenomenon to behold.

In The Shadow of Malabron, Rowen of Blue Hill has a very close encounter with an ice dragon on the Whitewing Glacier. An encounter that will have important consequences for the fate of Fable and all of the Perilous Realm.

Illustration by Mary Wharton

The Shadow of Malabron has just come out
in the US with Candlewick Press.

First review, in Kirkus:


After Will Lightfoot steals and wrecks his father's motorcycle, he stumbles into a foreign worlda fractured realm in which stories originate and from which they migrate, transformed, into other worlds. Not able to use the portal by which he arrived, Will undertakes a seemingly impossible quest to find a gateless gate that will take him back to his home and family. His companions on this trek are a toymaker-cumlore master and his granddaughter, a soldier and a talking wolf found by Will in the city library. Their group becomes seven on the road when they are joined by the mysterious Moth and his companion, a raven named Morrigan. Lush descriptive prose, cleverly sustained suspense, a sprinkling of humor and an exciting climax will keep readers riveted to the story, while those who know their folklore will be delighted by Wharton's twisting of the tropes and tales of myth and legend. Give this book to readers who love their fairies gritty or their tales fractured. They will thank you for the recommendation. (Fantasy. 10-14)