Wrede, Patricia C(ollins) 1953-
WREDE, Patricia C(ollins) 1953-
PERSONAL: Surname is pronounced "Reedy"; born March 27, 1953, in Chicago, IL; daughter of David Merrill (a mechanical engineer) and Monica Marie (an executive; maiden name, Buerglar) Collins; married James M. Wrede (a financial consultant), July 24, 1976 (divorced, 1992). Education: Carleton College, A.B., 1974; University of Minnesota, M.B.A., 1977. Politics: Independent. Religion: Roman Catholic. Hobbies and other interests: Sewing, embroidery, gardening, reading.
ADDRESSES: Home—Edina, MN. Agent—Valerie Smith, Route 44-55, R.R. Box 160, Modena, NY 12548. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Novelist. Minnesota Hospital Association, Minneapolis, rate review analyst, 1977-78; B. Dalton Bookseller, Minneapolis, financial analyst, 1978-80; Dayton-Hudson Corp., Minneapolis, financial analyst, 1980-81, senior financial analyst, 1981-83, senior accountant, 1983-85; full-time writer, 1985—. Laubach reading tutor.
MEMBER: Science Fiction Writers of America, Novelists, Inc.
AWARDS, HONORS: Books for Young Adults Recommended Reading List citation, 1984, for Daughter of Witches, and 1985, for The Seven Towers; Minnesota Book Award for Fantasy and Science Fiction, 1991, and Best Books for Young Adults citation, American Library Association (ALA), both for Dealing with Dragons; ALA Notable Book designation, and Best Books for Young Adults designation, both for Searching for Dragons.
The Seven Towers, Ace Books (New York, NY), 1984.
(With Caroline Stevermer) Sorcery and Cecelia, Ace Books (New York, NY), 1988, published as Sorcery and Cecelia; or, The Enchanted Chocolate Pot: Being the Correspondence of Two Young Ladies of Quality regarding Various Magical Scandals in London and the Country, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2003.
Snow White and Rose Red, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1989.
Mairelon the Magician, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1991.
Book of Enchantments (short stories), Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1996.
The Magician's Ward (sequel to Mairelon the Magician), Tor Books (New York, NY), 1997.
"lyra" fantasy series
Shadow Magic (also see below), Ace Books (New York, NY), 1982.
Daughter of Witches (also see below), Ace Books (New York, NY), 1983.
The Harp of Imach Thyssel (also see below), Ace Books (New York, NY), 1985.
Caught in Crystal, Ace Books (New York, NY), 1987.
The Raven Ring, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1994.
Shadows over Lyra (includes Shadow Magic, Daughter of Witches, and The Harp of Imach Thyssel), Tor Books (New York, NY), 1997.
"chronicles of the enchanted forest" fantasy series
Dealing with Dragons (Volume 1), Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1990, published as Dragons Bane, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1993.
Searching for Dragons (Volume 2), Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1991, published as Dragon Search, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1994.
Calling on Dragons (Volume 3), Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1993.
Talking to Dragons (Volume 4), Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1993, previous edition, Tempo/MagicQuest Books (New York, NY), 1985.
Enchanted Forest Chronicles (contains Dealing with Dragons, Searching for Dragons, Calling on Dragons, and Talking to Dragons), Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2003.
Contributor of short stories to anthologies, including Liavek, Ace Books (New York, NY), 1985; Liavek: The Players of Luck, Ace Books (New York, NY), 1986; Spaceships and Spells, Harper (New York, NY), 1987; The Unicorn Treasury, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1988; Liavek: Spells of Binding, Ace Books (New York, NY), 1988; Liavek: Festival Week, Ace Books (New York, NY), 1990; Tales of the Witch World Three, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1990; A Wizard's Dozen, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1993; and Blackthorn, White Rose, Morrow (New York, NY), 1994.
ADAPTATIONS: Books in Wrede's "Chronicles of the Enchanted Forest" series have been adapted as audio-books by Listening Library (New York, NY), 1997-2002.
SIDELIGHTS: The author of almost a score of novels and as many short stories, Patricia C. Wrede is a popular writer of fantasy. Her novels and stories, ranging from modern versions of traditional fairy tales to comic fantasy, break new ground in the genre. According to an essayist in St. James Guide to Young Adult Writers, the "two trademarks" of her work "are humor and light romance, two elements sure to appeal to the young adult audience." While much fantasy uses a pseudo-medieval, vaguely Celtic setting, Wrede expands these boundaries to include Renaissance and Regency-era England in Snow White and Rose Red, Sorcery and Cecelia, Mairelon the Magician, and The Magician's Ward. She has also helped to establish the strong-minded female protagonist as a mainstay in the modern fantasy genre. Among her other novels are the "Lyra" tales, which take place in Wrede's own created world, and the "Enchanted Forest" books, which present comic variations on fairy-tale motifs.
"I was an omnivorous reader as a child," Wrede once commented to CA. "I don't think I ever read anything only once. I read the 'Oz' books, and I still treasure a set of those that I collected over the years. Mrs. Piggle Wiggle and The Borrowers, the Walter Farley horse books, Robert Lawson animal stories, the 'Narnia Chronicles'—practically everything I could get my hands on. They knew me very well down at the library. I also told stories to my younger siblings (I am the eldest of five) and to any of my friends who would listen."
Wrede started writing, in the seventh grade, a "wildly improbable" novel. As she recalled, "I worked on it during class when I was supposed to be studying and brought it home every day. My mother aided and abetted me by typing out the pages and my father read them and told me they were great (he still thinks I should try to publish the book)."
After graduating from high school, Wrede attended Carleton College, where she majored in biology and graduated in 1974. "Of the sciences, I liked biology the best because it dealt on a personal level with living things, as opposed to physics and chemistry, which deal with things in the abstract—little molecules you can't even see. With biology you can pick up a plant and look at the roots and know what you've got."
After working as a secretary for several months, Wrede returned to school and obtained her M.B.A. in 1977. After graduating, she started work on her first novel, Shadow Magic, which would take five years to complete. Published by Ace Books in 1982, the novel tells the story of Alethia, daughter of a noble house of the nation of Alkyra. Alethia is of mixed blood—her mother is one of the magic-using Shee, and magic runs in her blood. She is kidnapped from her home in the city of Brenn by the Lithmern, agents of a rival nation. To carry out their plan, the Lithmern have unbound the evil Shadowborn, spirits who inhabit men's bodies and slowly destroy their minds. Alethia escapes the Lithmern with the aid of the Wyrds, a forest-dwelling, cat-like race of people, and meets her mother's folk, who train her in the use of magic. Alethia unites the four races of Alkyra—the Wyrds, the Shee, the sea-living Neira, and the humans— against the threat of the aroused Shadowborn. Finally, she discovers the lost magic treasures of the kings of Alkyra, uses them to defeat the Shadowborn, and is proclaimed queen of the land by the four reunited races.
Shadow Magic introduces the world of Lyra, an alternate earth that many of Wrede's novels share. Lyra is a land literally shaped by magic and by the threat of the Shadowborn. Its history dates from the end of the Wars of Binding, the conflict in which the Shadowborn were finally restrained by the power of the gifts of Alkyra. The land itself was broken, however, and many of its original inhabitants left homeless, forced to wander across the oceans in ships or over the lands in caravans. The ultimate result is a kaleidoscope of different cultures, from the warrior Cilhar nation to the older and more cultured society of Kith Alunel. The Kulseth sailors were left homeless when their island sank in the Wars of Binding; Varna, the island of wizards, was destroyed in a later conflict, and survivors from both places mingled with other peoples, adding to the variety and occasionally causing friction. The events of Shadow Magic take place more than three thousand years after the Wars of Binding, and other "Lyra" novels examine other eras in the world's history.
"For me the process of turning the story into a novel is a process of asking questions," Wrede explained to CA. "The two most useful tend to be: 'All right, what are the characters doing now?' and 'Why on earth are they doing that?' 'What are they doing now' applies not so much to the people who are 'onstage' as to the people who are 'offstage.' For instance, if I've written a scene in which the characters are all sitting around playing cards, I ask myself, 'What are the bad guys doing? That guy who was running away from the Indians—what's he doing? Did he get away, and if so, how did he do it? Where did he go? Did he have any help? Has he run into anybody interesting? Is he going to show up any minute? If so, why did he decide to break up this particular card game?' It's a whole process of asking questions—starting with the basic idea and asking, 'What does this mean?'"
In 1980, Wrede joined a writing group that later became known as the Scribblies. The group's members, which included Pamela Dean, Emma Bull, Will Shetterly, Steven Brust, and Nate Bucklin, all benefited from the experience because all seven sold at least one piece of writing after the group began and four went on to become professional writers.
In part because of the encouragement of her fellow Scribblies, Wrede followed Shadow Magic in 1983 with Daughter of Witches, another "Lyra" book, which tells of the sentencing of bond-servant Ranira to death on suspicion of sorcery and her escape from the prison city of Drinn. The Seven Towers, published in 1984, while not part of the "Lyra" cycle, nevertheless introduces several of Wrede's most memorable characters. One of these is Amberglas, a powerful sorceress who speaks in a sort of stream-ofconsciousness pattern. Another is Carachel, the wizard-king of Tar-Alem, whose struggle against the magic-devouring Matholych has led him to practice black magic. The 1985 addition to the "Lyra" cycle, The Harp of Imach Thyssel, is "one of the darker stories in the series," according to a reviewer for the St. James Guide to Fantasy Writers. It is also one of the rare Wrede novels with a male protagonist and tells a tale somewhat similar to The Seven Towers, about a magical harp and the man destined to play it. Wrede brought out the fourth volume of the "Lyra" series in 1987 with Caught in Crystal, a tale of "witches who have renounced their powers, only to be called back to right a wrong committed long ago," according to the St. James Guide to Fantasy Writers essayist.
After a seven-year hiatus, Wrede returned readers to Lyra with The Raven Ring, published in 1994. Her twenty-year-old heroine, Eleret Salven, has journeyed to the city of Ciaron to claim the property of her late mother, who has been killed in battle. Eleret's efforts are interrupted, however, by villains intent on stealing those personal effects—especially the raven ring, which has great power against the Shadowborn. According to Booklist contributor Roland Green, Eleret is "dragged more forcibly than not into a classic tale of mayhem and magic" that he found to be up to Wrede's "usual standard." A Publishers Weekly reviewer characterized Eleret as "a lively, spunky heroine" who, in this "refreshingly charming story," is allowed "to find less obvious solutions to the rather typical dilemmas presented."
Talking to Dragons, Wrede's fourth book, although first published in 1985, eventually became the fourth and final volume in her "Chronicles of the Enchanted Forest" series. Mixing elements of traditional fairy tales with modern wit, it tells the story of Daystar, a young man of sixteen who has lived the whole of his life on the outskirts of the Enchanted Forest with his mother, Cimorene. One day a wizard appears at his home, and the consequences of that wizard's arrival send Daystar into the Enchanted Forest, alone and armed only with a magic sword, with no idea what he is supposed to be doing. In the forest, he meets several memorable characters, including Shiara, a young fire witch who cannot quite control her magic; Morwen, a witch who lives with her umpteen cats in a cottage that is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside; and Kazul, the female King of the Dragons. The story reaches its climax as Daystar and Shiara confront the Society of Wizards at the castle of the rulers of the Enchanted Forest. Reviewing the audiobook version of that novel, Booklist contributor Anna Rich called it a "complex and fantastic story."
"The 'Enchanted Forest' books did not start off as a series," Wrede once explained to CA. "Just after I finished Daughter of Witches, we were having trouble with the title: the publisher didn't like the title I had originally come up with…. My friend said to me, 'What are some of the good titles with no books?' I listed out a few for him, and the last one I mentioned was Talking to Dragons. He said, 'That sounds good. Talking to Dragons sounds like a good book; you should write that book some day.' I said, 'That's the whole problem. I've got the title; I don't have any book.'"
The book that begins the "Enchanted Forest" series chronologically is Dealing with Dragons, which tells how Cimorene, having been refused the right to pursue her own interests—fencing, Latin lessons, and the like—and forced into a marriage not to her liking, flees to the lair of the dragon Kazul and becomes Kazul's princess. Eventually Cimorene becomes instrumental in securing Kazul's succession as King of the Dragons and helps defeat the Society of Wizards. In Searching for Dragons, the second volume of the "Chronicles of the Enchanted Forest," Mendanbar and his queen go in search of Kazul after problems develop in the kingdom. In School Librarian, Maureen Porter noted that this "entertaining and charming novel" falls within the tradition of J. R. R. Tolkien's classic trilogy The Lord of the Rings while still "making the reader think of this kingdom in a different way." Kristi Beavin, writing in Horn Book, likewise praised the "magical landscape" Wrede creates, while School Library Journal's Celeste Steward called the audiobook version a "lighthearted tale of dragon-napping and magic gone awry," and a "charming tale."
Volume three of the series, Calling on Dragons, is told from Morwen's perspective. Two of Morwen's highly opinionated cats accompany Queen Cimorene, Morwen, Telemain the magician, Kazul, and Killer, a sort of rabbit-like blue donkey, on a very important quest: the evil wizards have stolen the Enchanted Sword that protects the Forest and a royal family member must retrieve it. Like the two preceding "Enchanted Forest" books, Calling on Dragons is a "madcap romp" with the same "bright, witty dialogue [and] clever, fairy-tale spoofs; in short, a treat from start to finish," in the opinion of Bonnie Kunzel in Voice of Youth Advocates. "The focus is on the comical repartee and the magic itself," noted a Kirkus Reviews critic, adding that several episodes are "laughaloud funny." Reviewing the audiobook version of the same title for School Library Journal, Brian E. Wilson called the tale a "lighthearted look at a group of misfits," and further commented that this "fluffy romp goes down easy, pleasing fans of the fractured fairytale genre." In fact, "humor predominates" in the entire "Chronicles of the Enchanted Forest" series, according to the critic for the St. James Guide to Young Adult Writers. This same contributor further noted, "Wrede plays with fairy-tale convention, turning the familiar motifs upside down and inside out."
Wrede embarked on a very different type of fantasy writing with Sorcery and Cecelia, her seventh book. Written with friend Caroline Stevermer, Sorcery and Cecelia is set in an alternate early-nineteenth-century England wherein magic is systematized and taught in the public schools following the Napoleonic Wars. The book consists of a series of letters written between two cousins, one of whom has gone down to London to be introduced to the social life there. The two become entangled in a power struggle between wizards but overcome their adversaries and, in true Regency fashion, marry their respective beaus. Reprinted by Harcourt in 2003 as Sorcery and Cecelia; or, The Enchanted Chocolate Pot: Being the Correspondence of Two Young Ladies of Quality regarding Various Magical Scandals in London and the Country, the novel was welcomed back by a critic for Kirkus Reviews as a "cult epistolary fantasy." The same reviewer went on to note that this "clever romp will appeal to fans of Regency romance and light fantasy."
Wrede's Snow White and Rose Red is also set in an alternate England, in this case during Tudor times. It is a retelling of an ancient Grimms' fairy tale but mixes in historical characters such as Dr. John Dee, mathematician and astrologer to the court of Queen Elizabeth. Blanche and Rosamund, the title characters, are daughters of the widow Arden. They live on the edges of a forest near the river Thames that marks the boundary of the magical realm of Faerie. Because of their isolation and occasional odd behavior, the widow and her daughters are suspected of using magic, a serious crime in Elizabethan England that is punishable by death. Through the machinations of the villagers, the Faerie Queen's court, and the magical experiments of Dr. Dee, the girls become involved with the half-human sons of the queen of Faerie.
"Mairelon the Magician is more like Sorcery and Cecelia or Snow White and Rose Red, which are set in an alternate England," Wrede explained of her 1991 novel. "Mairelon the Magician is set in this England in about 1816-17, shortly after the Napoleonic Wars ended. The main character, Kim, a street waif who has grown up in the slums, is hired to burgle the wagon of a performing magician. He turns out to be a real magician, however, and she gets caught. Since he is a rather eccentric magician, instead of turning her over to the constable, he decides to take her under his wing. He had, it turns out, five years before been framed for theft and has come back trying to find all of the various things that were stolen so he can clear his name. It turns into very much a lunatic romp. You've got a lot of character types that people who read Regency romances will recognize, although it's not a romance." Sybil Steinberg, writing in Publishers Weekly, was sufficiently cast under Wrede's spell to call the book "delightful," and further commented that the author's "confection will charm readers of both Regency romances and fantasies."
In 1997's The Magician's Ward, Wrede creates a sequel to Mairelon the Magician and leads readers once again into her alternate Regency universe. In this novel, Kim falls in love with her magician/mentor Richard Merrill, although Kim's aunt pushes the young woman to work on honing her feminine wiles in polite society. In Publishers Weekly, a reviewer praised The Magician's Ward as featuring Wrede's characteristic "charm, humor and intelligence," and maintained that the novel will "enthrall Regency fans and fantasy buffs looking for a new twist." According to Booklist reviewer Roland Green in his appraisal of The Magician's Ward, "The pacing, the wit, the world-building skill, and the general intelligence" found in the author's other novels are all present here.
Wrede has also written a number of short stories, published both in anthologies as well as in her own 1996 collection, Book of Enchantments. Most of the tales in this collection are high fantasy, although some do have a modern setting. Based on fairy tales, ballads, biblical tales, and even humorous send-ups of fantasy traditions, the collected stories offer a "surprisingly varied" and "well-crafted" selection, according to Booklist reviewer Carolyn Phelan. Additionally, Wrede has turned her hand to novelizations with two "Star Wars" adaptations: 1999's Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace and Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones. Based on the movies of the same titles, the books closely follow the plot lines of the popular films. School Library Journal contributor Wilson praised Wrede's "faithful novelization" of Attack of the Clones, noting that the author "does an excellent job" of "conveying [the] confusion and frustration" of Padme and Anakin when they fall in love. For Wilson, in fact, such scenes "work better in the novelization than they do onscreen because Wrede embraces the opportunity to explain what goes on in their heads."
"When you're writing fantasy you're writing about magic," Wrede explained of the genre that has occupied much of her writing life, "and magic is not something that exists in the real world, like rocks. Essentially magic is a metaphor for something else…. It varies from writer to writer and frequently from book to book." For Wrede, magic is a metaphor for power: "the essence of the ability to make things happen, to get things done. When you're the CEO of a corporation you can say, 'I want this to happen,' and people will go out and make it happen. You have the power to make it happen. And in my books the fundamental question is, if you can do anything, what do you do? If you've got the power to make stuff happen, good stuff or bad stuff, what do you do with it?"
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Volume 8, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1992.
St. James Guide to Fantasy Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.
St. James Guide to Young Adult Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Booklist, May 1, 1993, Sally Estes, review of Calling on Dragons, p. 1582; August, 1993, Sally Estes, review of Talking to Dragons, p. 2051; October 15, 1994, Roland Green, review of The Raven Ring, p. 405; May 15, 1996, Carolyn Phelan, review of Book of Enchantments, p. 1588; November 1, 1997, Roland Green, review of The Magician's Ward, p. 457; April 15, 2002, Sally Estes, review of The Magician's Ward, pp. 357-358; June 1, 2002, p. 1753; November 1, 2002, Anna Rich, review of Talking to Dragons (audiobook), p. 518.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, May, 1996, p. 319.
English Journal, December, 1981, review of Daughter of Witches, p. 67.
Horn Book, January-February, 1992, Ann A. Flowers, review of Searching for Dragons, p. 76; November-December, 1993, Ann A. Flowers, review of Talking to Dragons, p. 760; May-June, 2002, Kristi Beavin, review of Searching for Dragons (audiobook), pp. 357-358.
Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 1993, review of Calling on
Dragons, p. 382; April 15, 1996, p. 609; April 15, 2003, review of Sorcery and Cecelia; or, TheEnchanted Chocolate Pot: Being the Correspondence of Two Young Ladies of Quality regarding Various Magical Scandals in London and the Country, pp. 613-614.
Library Journal, November 15, 1994, Jackie Cassada, review of The Raven Ring, p. 90.
Publishers Weekly, April 19, 1991, Sybil Steinberg, review of Mairelon the Magician, p. 60; October 10, 1994, review of The Raven Ring, p. 66; November 24, 1997, review of The Magician's Ward, p. 57.
School Librarian, November, 1994, Maureen Porter, review of Dragon Search, p. 168.
School Library Journal, February, 1992, Cathy Chauvette, review of Mairelon the Magician, p. 122; June, 1993, Lisa Dennis, review of Calling on Dragons, p. 112; June, 1996, p. 130; June, 2002, Celeste Steward, review of Searching for Dragons (audiobook), p. 72; August, 2002, Brian E. Wilson, review of Calling on Dragons and Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones (audiobook), pp. 76, 77-78.
Voice of Youth Advocates, August, 1993, Bonnie Kunzel, review of Calling on Dragons, pp. 171-172.
Enchanted Chocolate Pot, http://www.tc.umn.edu/ (May 8, 2003), "Caroline Stevermer and Patricia C. Wrede Page."
Patrica C. Wrede Info Page, http://www.dendarii.co.uk/ (May 8, 2003).
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, http://www.sfwa.org/ (May 8, 2003), Patricia C. Wrede, "Fantasy Worldbuilding Questions."*