Dandelion Fire — “100 Cupboards” Series


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Book Review

This book has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the second book in the “100 Cupboards” series.

Plot Summary

Henry York lives with his Uncle Frank, Aunt Dotty and cousins Anastasia, Henrietta and Penelope in Henry, Kan., until his adoptive, travel-writer parents are rescued from Colombia. They are getting a divorce and intend to send Henry to a new boarding school. Henry’s only chance for a better life is through finding the land of his birth — a world on the other side of one of 98 magical cupboards.

Henrietta has hidden the keys to her deceased grandfather’s bedroom with its large cupboard that allows them to travel to the different worlds (that are behind the cupboards in Henry’s room). As she and Henry dig for the keys in the yard, Henry touches a strange dandelion and is thrown backward. His resulting injuries and blindness are so severe that the family thinks he’s been struck by lightning. Henry refuses to let the setback keep him from finding his true home. Henrietta tries to follow Henry through the portal, but they end up in separate cupboard worlds.

An evil man named Darius captures Henry. Darius recognizes Henry as a seventh son of a pauper, who is supposed to have great power. Darius, too, is a seventh son. He believes that their collective strength could be spectacular. He prepares a ritual to cut Henry open and put his (Darius’) blood into the boy’s veins. Henry escapes, but only after he’s endured great pain and received physical scars. Darius finds Nimiane, the powerful and immortal witch-queen of a cupboard land called Endor. (Henry inadvertently released her from bondage in book one). Darius willingly becomes her slave so he can share in her power.

Henrietta finds herself in a land called FitzFaeren. The would-be queen, whose coronation was ruined long ago by Grandfather’s misdeeds, captures her. Henrietta escapes and finds Eli, a man who helped Grandfather. A man named Caleb captures Henrietta and Eli.

Back in Kansas, Uncle Frank tries to rescue Henry and Henrietta from the cupboards. His efforts fail since can’t enter Grandfather’s magically-sealed bedroom. Darius bursts through the portal into the family’s home. He sends the house reeling into a world with nothing but grassland before escaping back through the cupboards. With the room’s magic disrupted, Uncle Frank and the family climb through Grandfather’s portal in search of the others and a way back to Kansas.

Henry returns to the house in Kansas and finds a note from the family saying where they’ve gone. He discovers that Kansas is still there; it’s actually just outside the back door. He contemplates going out and returning to his adoptive parents, but he realizes it isn’t the life he wants. He re-enters the portal to find the others.

A faerie named Frank, not to be confused with his Uncle Frank, recognizes Henry as the son of a hero named Mordecai. Frank tries to help Henry, but enemy faeries put the boy on trial and decide to kill him. Frank helps Henry escape. He takes him to Caleb, where Henry is reunited with Henrietta and the rest of his Kansas family. He learns that Uncle Frank is Caleb’s brother. (Uncle Frank, like Henry, was not born in Kansas but arrived from the cupboards.)

Henry meets his mother and grandmother and learns that their city is under siege. A christening ceremony for Henry takes place. This provides enough magic to free his true father, Mordecai, from a spell that had him trapped for years. The reunion is cut short as the brothers Frank, Caleb and Mordecai return to battle. They know Nimiane and Darius are near. Henry and Henrietta return to Kansas and locate a magic arrow, one of the talismans Grandfather stole. They bring it back to FitzFaeren, and Caleb uses it to destroy Darius. Henry stays with his newfound family in FitzFaeren, and they share frequent visits with Uncle Frank’s family by way of the cupboards.

Christian Beliefs

When Uncle Frank takes the family through the cupboards, he leaves a note for Henry and Henrietta, saying he’s praying they’ll all find each other. As Henry prepares to look for his family, he feels he should pray. He doesn’t know what to say, so he just says, “God.” Caleb says to the queen of FitzFaeren, “May heaven stand with you.”

Other Belief Systems

Henry’s room contains magic cupboards. A magic portal in Grandfather’s enchanted room allows Henry and his family to travel to the worlds behind the cupboards. Some of the worlds are dark and “unlucky.” Henry receives a powerful, glowing mark on his hand after touching a dandelion. He initially believes magic is something wrong, bent and dangerous, though it eventually helps him develop self-confidence. As his powers begin to grow stronger, he wishes for someone who could mix him a nasty, vomitous drink and dance around while shaking bones from a monkey skull in order to divine what he should do next. Then he says he needs real magic, not like voodoo, but like the kind in wind and storms — the kind that turns caterpillars into butterflies, tadpoles into frogs and wood into coal into diamonds. He learns he is the seventh son of a pauper, which affords him magical abilities, including the gift of second sight. Seventh sons can go into each other’s dreams and converse with one another. Darius speaks to Henry this way. Henry and a seventh son he meets in FitzFaeren also converse in dreams.

Henry must be christened so that his father can return and the witch’s magic can be overthrown. The naming ceremony includes speeches from his mother and grandmother that predict the kind of man he will become. When asked by the priest, “What God shall walk before him?” his mother answers, “The true Gods shall be the God before him.”

Grandfather was studying dark volumes about the power of demons; these were some of the books he stole from the libraries of the FitzFaeren. He also took some of the FitzFaeren’s talismans, and the citizens believe this has caused great damage to their people. One of the talismans, an arrow, is supposed to have been brushed by God’s own breath. When Mordecai returns, Caleb says he is their talisman.

Nimiane, the witch-queen, is immortal and possesses powerful magic. She tells Darius a man he’s seeking is “in her” and is her sire. She possesses Darius’ body at times. Darius derives great pleasure from killing and hungers for power. He prepares a rite using his own blood to make Henry his son. The helper performing the rite tells Henry he’s tied up so that his joints won’t unhinge, that he will not pluck out his eyes or brains or rip the flesh off of his skin and pry out the bones. If Henry dies, Darius can absorb his ability to have second sight. If he lives, Darius’ blood will be in his veins, and his symbol will be on Henry’s flesh. Darius’ symbol is carved on Henry, who experiences horrible pain, joints cracking, seizures and vomiting. The man who performs the ritual later lies on the floor, bleeding from the head.

Eli performs a rite of skulls, which involves dark magic. Under duress, he swears before God and the witnesses there that he will pursue good, purity and peace.

Caleb tells his men to pray for the dead they find on the road so that the enemy can’t absorb the men’s power. Many wizards live in the land of the FitzFaeren. They battle Henry’s family using their magic. A woman Henry meets in a closet world tells his fortune.

Authority Roles

Henry’s parents, whom he’s recently learned adopted him, never paid much attention to him. They put him on various vitamin diets and stuck him with nannies or in boarding school. In a TV interview, they announce their impending divorce. They say they need to get to know each other again, but first, they need to get to know themselves. Uncle Frank treats Henry as he would a son. He doesn’t stop Henry from exploring the cupboards, though he knows the danger involved. He understands Henry’s desire to find out his origins. Darius, like Henry, was a pauper’s seventh son. His father was a corrupt priest who used Darius’ abilities for his own gain.

Profanity & Violence

The Lord’s name is used in vain half a dozen times. Swear words including a–, d–ned and b–tard, also appear. As he’s receiving Darius’ ritual, Henry d–ns Darius several times. Darius calls himself a god.

Sailors pray and curse as they bail out of a sinking ship. On a ship in one of the cupboard worlds, a man glistening with blood lands in front of Henrietta, an arrow sprouting from his neck. Blood streaks down her face from where he touches her before he dies. Splatters of the witch’s blood literally burn Henry’s jaw. Darius has Henry tortured in a ritual.

Grandfather warns those reading his journal that if they travel through the cupboards, they should prepare to see murders, tombs and bone-filled ruins. An arrow hits Darius in the throat, killing him.

Henry is sliced up in a ritual where the villain tries to inject his blood into the boy. The scene is intense and graphic.

Sexual Content


Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments

Lying: Henrietta lies to Henry, telling him she doesn’t have Grandfather’s room key. She’s later embarrassed when he doesn’t believe her, and she’s forced to produce the key. She apologizes. When in cupboard worlds, Henrietta sometimes lies to the residents about who she is.

Alcohol: Henry drinks wine at his christening party.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book’s review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

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