The Enchanted Forest: Dealing With Dragons (Patricia C. Wrede)

Cimorene is a princess in a world where she isn't supposed to have ambition beyond "royal trophy wife", and after years of her parents stopping her from studying magic, fencing, and anything else but how to faint at the sight of monsters she volunteers (she's not even supposed to learn how to cook, apparently?) to be a dragon's housekeeper to avoid an arranged marriage. While trying to get her suitors to leave her alone, she stumbles into some wizards that are clearly up to no good, and she and her dragon master Kazul have to figure out what they're are up to while riffing fairy tale tropes along the way.

So it does kind of leave me wondering how much of the story being driven by convenience is lampshading versus bad writing. Cimorene doesn't want to marry a bone-headed prince, and a magic frog just happens to be sitting on the ground to tell her where to go. Cimorene needs some powdered hen's teeth for an anti-fire spell but can't find any for the life of her, but then the prince she ran away from shows up, opens a bottle that just happens to contain a djinn, and the djinn grants each of them a wish in exchange for some advice (this also serves to get the prince out of Cimorene's hair because his wish is to save a princess from a dragon, but he unwittingly specifies a male dragon without realizing Kazul's female). At one point a bird divebombs Cimorene out of nowhere, and after she kills it it gives her one of the keys to solving the book's final puzzle (for lack of a better thing to call it) after she randomly picked the other one off a cave floor. I guess the way the wizards are beaten is intended as a nod to Wizard of Oz, but then they have to come up with a reason for why it doesn't melt the good magic user. And don't get me started on everything involving the stone prince.


The Wizard's Dog (Eric Kahn Gale)

As far as glorified fanfic goes, I guess you can do a lot worse than "Hey, what if Merlin the wizard had a dog? So our tale of canine loyalty can have the owner kidnapped by fae folk, and the dog also has a magic amulet that let's him talk!" But it doesn't take long for Nosewise to run into a boy named Arthur, and you quickly realize where this is going.

I mean, I don't want to give this book too much shit because while it's not the deepest thing out there (in the afterword, the author straight-up says the book's message doesn't really go beyond "Dogs are awesome"), it's also totally harmless and sort of cute at times. But I will berate it for forgetting to end properly. After a twist that appears to have been ripped off the ending of Resident Evil 0, the book abandons all that stuff about the owner of Excalibur becoming king in favor of calling back to a gag that had been forgotten about for about 2/3 of the book.