September 20, 2016
SVT Magna Edition #1, The Magic Christmas: “Game of Thrones” for Preteens
Summary: It’s almost Christmas, and Elizabeth is excited about her present for Jessica. She found a picture of the two of them at their seventh birthday party and has written a story about that day. I don’t know why she thinks Jessica would like this more than, say, a sweater, but okay. Jessica has also gotten her twin a great present – tickets to a big concert in L.A. on New Year’s Day. Considering this is Jessica, who doesn’t usually plan ahead, this is pretty big. But Jess thinks Liz’s present is dumb, and Liz is mad that Jess didn’t remember she’s been planning a big brunch for the Sixers staff on New Year’s Day. They have a huge fight about selfishness.
Alice’s parents come for a visit and give the twins family heirlooms, two harlequin dolls that belonged to Samantha and Amanda. The dolls have medallions that are somehow big enough to contain poems. Elizabeth’s:
Wheels on a cart.
Unite all these things:
Eyes, feet, and wings,
Scissors and socks,
Hands found on clocks.
Joined from the start.
Answer this well,
Escape the dread spell.
And magic’s your friend.
Add a good rhyme,
Escape one last time.
The twins don’t really care about the dolls, since they’re too old for them, and they’re more caught up in their fight than anything else. But that night, they wake up at the same time and realize that Elizabeth’s poem is about things that are usually found in pairs. When they say this out loud, the dolls suddenly come to life, then disappear. There’s some sort of gold haze that makes the twins disappear as well.
Elizabeth and her doll end up in a meadow, where she learns that the doll is really a preteen boy named Prince Adair. He’s from the Hidden Kingdom and was turned into a doll by Medwin, a wizard who wanted to take his throne. Elsewhere in the Hidden Kingdom, Jessica learns the same from her doll, Adair’s brother Dorin. Medwin put a spell on the princes that could only be broken by two people solving the riddle at the same time but in different places. The princes have been dolls for a hundred years. Wow, that sucks.
To get back to Sweet Valley, the twins have to go through a Labyrinth (no David Bowie in this one, sadly), but that means going to the palace, where they’ll inevitably run into Medwin. The princes don’t want Medwin to know they’re back, which means they can’t use magic, because doing so would immediately alert Medwin to their return. Wait, what, magic? Yes, magic. Everyone in the Hidden Kingdom can do it, including the twins, even though they’re just visiting. All they have to do is imagine what they want – clothes, food, weapons, whatever.
As the story gets more Princess Bride-y, Elizabeth and Adair are cornered by bloodrats (think ROUSes) while Jessica and Dorin are chased by a Serpasaur (it’s described as looking like a dragon, but I can’t help thinking of the shrieking eels). Elizabeth and Adair head up a mountain to some snow, since ROUSes hate snow. Elizabeth realizes that she can conjure a weapon, but all she can come up with is a cardboard sword from an elementary-school play. Thanks for trying, Liz. Then she conjures a match, which allows Adair to make a torch and burn a bloodrat. The bloodrat’s shrieks cause an avalanche and kill most of the other bloodrats.
Meanwhile, a mermanon (whatever, it’s a mermaid) rescues Jessica from the Serpasaur. She and Dorin are sent underwater in giant bubble fish to meet with Merelantha, the mermanon queen of Zerasharb. Now we’re getting into Game of Thrones territory, with all these weird names. Merelantha doesn’t like Dorin much, so she has him and Jessica held captive so she can hand them over to Medwin. Dorin calls her bluff, knowing that Merelantha hates Medwin because he killed her sister. He’s right, and Merelantha offers to let him and Jessica spend the night in Zerasharb before they head to the palace to take out Medwin. What was the point of that?
Elizabeth and Adair are stuck in a cave for the night, but the accommodations aren’t too bad. In the morning, Elizabeth uses her newfound magical abilities to accidentally conjure up breakfast. Now that’s a superpower no one ever thinks about. Adair gives her a history lesson – he and Dorin inherited the Hidden Kingdom from their father and planned to rule together. Dorin would do the administrative stuff that kept the kingdom running, while Adair would do the fun stuff like planning parties. In case you haven’t guessed, Dorin is like Elizabeth and Adair is like Jessica.
Underwater, Jessica and Dorin learn that Medwin is throwing a ball, and with all the activity going on around the palace, they should be able to sneak in undetected. Things are tense in the Hidden Kingdom since Medwin is going to attack everyone any day now and kill a bunch of people. Blah, blah, winter is coming. Merelantha has someone give Jessica an emerald key, warning her not to tell Dorin about it. Jess and Dorin start heading for the palace, taking a ride on some unicorns. Dorin’s like, “You don’t have unicorns where you’re from?” Jessica’s like, “Yes, but they’re just annoying girls who like to wear purple.”
Elizabeth and Adair continue their trek up the mountain, where Adair hopes they can chat with Toramon, the wise man who lives at the top. He remembers a nursery rhyme from his childhood about how Toramon, Merelantha, and Medwin (pre-evilness) are the three wisest people in the land. Elizabeth hopes Toramon hasn’t gone bad like Medwin. Luckily, he hasn’t, but he’s a little nuts, and it’s hard to get a straight answer out of him. But the good news is that he can see everything in the kingdom and even events in the future (Three-Eyed Raven, anyone?), so he knows Jessica’s hanging out with Dorin.
Toramon gives Elizabeth a brief glimpse of the kingdom, which lets her know that there’s a ball that night. Adair realizes what Dorin did about being able to sneak into the palace while everyone’s running around, getting ready for the festivities. Before he and Liz leave, Toramon gives Liz a ruby key, telling her to keep it secret from Adair. Then Elizabeth and Adair try to speed up their journey by riding huge leaves like hang-gliders, though Liz almost gets killed in a freak tornado. The two sets of twins spot each other from sky and ground but are too far away to recognize each other.
Jessica and Dorin make it to the palace first, and it’s not a very welcoming place. Medwin has tapped everyone’s magic to make himself more powerful, so everyone’s depressed and poor. Jessica conjures fancy clothes for herself and Dorin, and they sneak into the palace. Dorin’s plan is to get Jess in the Labyrinth so she can go home while he fights Medwin. But Elizabeth and Adair learn that the Labyrinth is locked, and only three people have keys – Medwin, Toramon, and Merelantha. Adair thinks he’ll have to kill Medwin and get his key. Elizabeth decides to keep quiet about the key Toramon gave her. The two of them dress as servants and enter the palace.
Dorin and Jessica find the Labyrinth but also learn that it’s locked. Dorin makes the same decision as Adair about getting Medwin’s key. But before anyone can make a move, Medwin recognizes Adair in the ballroom and attacks him. Adair uses magic to fend off all of Medwin’s weapons, which is pretty impressive for a guy who hasn’t used magic in a hundred years. Medwin finds a way to slow Adair down, and Adair has trouble holding on to his strength. Dorin tries to fight Medwin but doesn’t have much better luck.
Medwin, thinking he’s going to kill the princes and earn the throne for real, taunts that there’s another mystery to solve surrounding the way the spell he put on them was broken. Jessica remembers the part about the poem that said “answer again and magic’s your friend,” and realizes that the things in Elizabeth’s poem aren’t just in pairs, but are also things that work better together. Obviously, the princes need to work together to beat Medwin. Why didn’t they think of that themselves?
Wonder Twin powers, activate! The princes win the battle against Medwin, who disappears. The fight drains the princes and they’re confined to bedrest for a few days. This allows Elizabeth and Jessica to hang out and make up with each other. They tell each other about their keys to the Labyrinth but don’t want to tell the princes; they think Medwin’s in the Labyrinth and the guys will want to go after him again. The girls debate staying in the Hidden Kingdom to be with the preteen princes they’ve known for three days. But ultimately they know they have to go home.
The girls plan to leave without saying goodbye to Dorin and Adair. After one last unicorn ride, they create goodbye presents for the guys. The twins are fighting again, though, still mad about each other’s Christmas presents. Guys, you were almost killed by bloodrats and Serpasaurs and an evil wizard. Get some perspective.
Time to head to the Labyrinth! Inside is a cottage surrounded by roses that look like Alice Larson’s wooden rose. While Medwin hangs around, watching, the twins knock on different doors of the cottage to chat with the Guardian of the Labyrinth, who will give them a test before they’re allowed to enter. The Guardian takes a different form for each girl – Jessica sees Amanda and Elizabeth sees Samantha. But their test is the same, and they just have to answer one question: What’s the most important gift they’ve ever gotten?
The twins have learned the big lesson from the book about appreciating each other, or whatever, so they name each other’s Christmas presents. Unfortunately, that’s not what the Guardian was looking for. No Labyrinth for the twins, and what’s worse, Medwin wants to kill them. The girls make up, thinking they’re going to die, but Elizabeth remembers that Jessica’s poem ends with “add a good rhyme, escape one last time.” Liz’s poem ends with an unrhymed line. There has to be another answer.
Jessica’s solution for a rhyme to “dolls harlequin” is “a pair of aspirin.” Yes, Jessica. The solution to saving yourself from an evil wizard in a magical kingdom is aspirin. Fortunately, the girls’ brains kick in and they finish the poem with, “My very own twin,” meaning that they’re the best gifts each has ever gotten. This is the right answer, and they’re allowed to enter the Labyrinth. First, though, the princes find them, turn Medwin into a doll (poetic justice!), and ask the girls to stay in the Hidden Kingdom. Sorry, boys. Sweet Valley is just too awesome to leave behind.
The twins are magically transported back to Sweet Valley, where it seems no time has passed (though their parents noticed that they were missing). In the morning, Steven announces that he’s solved the riddle in the dolls’ poems. But now they’re different. (Also, the princes sent the twins back with new dolls, I guess so no one wonders what happened to the originals.) Jessica’s new poem:
A place far away
Where unicorns play,
Where a mermanon dives,
And magic survives.
Two princes the same,
Each with his own name.
Say both names together,
And return here forever.
The girls officially make up when Jessica reads (and loves) Elizabeth’s story, and Liz cancels the Sixers brunch so she can go to the concert with Jess. All’s well that ends well! Actually, all’s well that ends awesome, as Lila has received a confusing present she wants to tell the twin about: an ugly doll with a poem on its medallion. The twins know it’s Medwin, though they don’t tell Lila how they know his name. His poem:
As a doll he’s been set.
Free him now? Not just yet.
He lived none too well,
To escape a dread spell,
But all in good time,
You’ll find a true rhyme
To send him back to his kingdom.
But why send him back to the Hidden Kingdom to torture people when he can spend eternity stuffed in the back of Lila’s closet?
Thoughts: After Jessica’s told she might have to wait a year to get home: “‘A whole year?’ Jessica repeated faintly. She would miss the rest of Christmas vacation – and summer vacation too. She would miss dozens of Unicorn meetings, and hundreds of episodes of Days of Turmoil. By the time she returned, her whole wardrobe would be out of date!” Oh, Jessica. We need to discuss your priorities.
“Unicorns are creatures of goodness and light. In a way, they’re like small children.” Clearly Dorin hasn’t spent an extended period of time with small children. They’re more like creatures of destruction and screaming.
There’s a character of Days of Turmoil named Flame. I wonder if Bambi got the part.
“The Hidden Kingdom was beautiful. But it wasn’t Sweet Valley.” Yes, folks, Sweet Valley is better than the magical land where you can use magic to get anything you want.
Stop saying “impetuous,” Elizabeth. Be a 12-year-old.
It’s always bugged me that I can’t come up with a rhyme for “kingdom” to finish the last poem. I guess that’s the point, that there’s no good rhyme, but still.