The Wizards of Once: Twice Magic

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for The Wizards of Once. You can read my review of this novel [here].

Twice Magic was written by Cressida Cowell and first published in 2018. It follows the continuing adventures of Xar and Wish as they seek to find a way to defeat the evil Kingwitch once and for all. The novel follows The Wizards of Once (2017) and precedes Knock Three Times (2019), so I would strongly recommend reading them in sequence if you want to fully appreciate them.

Following his previous adventure, Encanto has had Xar locked up in the terrible prison of Gormincrag. He claims that it is for his own good – a way to protect himself and those around him until the witchstain can be removed – but Xar has his doubts. The Drood Commander who runs the prison hates everything to do with witches, and Xar knows that it is likely that he will be locked away forever.

Wish is also having a difficult time. Even though the Stone-That-Takes-Away-Magic has been destroyed, Queen Sychorax is more determined than ever to destroy the Wizards. She also still seems to be thoroughly disappointed in Wish, which puts her in an awkward position. How can Wish learn to use her newfound powers while still keeping them secret from her magic-hating mother?

It’s not long before fate – or, rather, a stolen spelling book – draws Xar and Wish together again. When they discover a spell that reportedly gets rid of witches, the two set off on an epic quest to locate the rare ingredients that it requires. However, their quest will not be easy. With wizards, warriors and witches in hot pursuit, it’s a race against the clock to complete the spell before the three great armies collide…

If you enjoyed the first instalment of this series, chances are that this sequel will also be right up your street. Although the fact that the novel does not pick up precisely where The Wizards of Once left off did confuse me at first, it does soon find its feet once again. The plot this time is really just more of the same, reuniting Xar and Wish as they try to find a way to defeat the witches once and for all.

In terms of structure, I did feel as though feel as though Twice Magic shared many of the same problems that I had with The Wizards of Once. The first half of the story was mostly filler as it needlessly separated the two protagonists, forcing the narrative to reintroduce them both as it took a surprisingly long time to unite them. Yet, as with The Wizard of Once, the novel did seem to find its momentum as it drew towards the climax. The final few chapters, as the wizards and warriors were forced to battle the Kingwitch, were a lot more engaging. This left me excited to find out what will happen next.

Yet, my biggest problem with Twice Magic was its lack of focus. The themes that the novel presents are incredibly large and complex. They range from Wish’s struggle with dyslexia and desperation to live up to her mother’s high expectations, to the difficulty in uniting groups of people who hold polarising beliefs. However, these messages were often lost under the relentless filler. As with The Wizards of Once, the narrative frequently bombards the reader with new characters and concepts, flipping from one to the next without taking the time to develop any of these.

Yet, despite my gripes, Twice Magic is sure to appeal to young and reluctant readers purely due to its sheer randomness. The tone of the novel captures the perfect mix of creepy and humorous. As with all Cowell’s books, the sketchy illustrations are very unique and capture the personality of the characters. However, it did annoy me slightly that the illustrations did not always quite match the descriptions of what was happening on page, as this did take me out of the story somewhat once I started to notice it.

I was also disappointed by Twice Magic’s ending. As the novel drew to a close, I was left feeling as though not a lot had been achieved. The story’s exciting climax culminated in a slight cliff-hanger, merely pointing Xar and Wish in the right direction for the sequel. Nothing felt any closer to resolution, as both protagonists were left in the same situation that they were in at the end of The Wizards of Once. The Kingwitch is still at large, Xar is still afflicted with a witchstain, and the warriors and wizards are still at war.

Even the characters did not get very much development this time around. Xar is still largely insufferable. He is arrogant and self-centred, usually acting in his own best interest with little consideration for how this will hurt others. Although Xar does seem to change over the course of the climax, this largely comes out of left field and felt more like a sudden epiphany than true character growth.

Wish, on the other hand, is still a wonderful character. The fact that Xar is so awful only served to illustrate how brave and empathetic she is. I loved the scenes that focused on Wish learning how to use magic, and the delight that she felt as she discovered a way of learning that suited her. It was a shame that the adult characters could not share in her growth. Queen Sychorax, in particular, seemed to have taken a step backwards in this novel, and it annoyed me that she was portrayed in a far more negative light than the equally problematic Encanzo.

I think I’ve probably said enough. All in all, I was left rather disappointed by Twice Magic as I did not feel as though it was as strong as The Wizards of Once. The plot was a bit unfocused and the protagonists did not really receive a lot of development. Hopefully, the story will pick up again in its third instalment.

The Wizards of Once: Twice Magic can be purchased as a Paperback, eBook and Audio Book on Amazon.co.uk

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