Official Summary: On Wilde Island, there is no peace between dragons, fairies, and humans.
Wilde Island is in an uproar over the recent death of its king. As the uneasy pact between dragons, fairies, and humans begins to fray, the royal witch hunter with a hidden agenda begins a vengeful quest to burn girls suspected of witchcraft before a new king is crowned.
Strong-willed Tess, a blacksmith’s daughter from a tiny hamlet, wants more for herself than a husband and a house to keep. But in times like these wanting more can be dangerous. Accused of witchery, Tess and her two friends are forced to flee the violent witch hunter. As their pursuer draws ever closer they find shelter with a huntsman in the outskirts of the forbidden Dragonswood sanctuary. But staying with the mysterious huntsman poses risks of its own: Tess does not know how to handle the attraction she feels for him—or resist the elusive call that draws her deeper onto the heart of Dragonswood.
Review: Dragonswood is a strongly crafted novel that will appeal to fantasy fans who love a good classic quest and imaginative worlds populated with magical species. Carey deftly creates three distinct races in Dragonswood—humans, fairies, and dragons—giving each a rich history and defining characteristics. Then, just as quickly, she demonstrates all are ultimately people with similar hearts, if different perspectives.
Carey’s world is in fact a mix of the real and the fantastic. It is set on an island close to England, where the descendants of King Arthur reign and have built one of the world’s final refuges for the disappearing dragon and fairy races. This setting is unclear at first, making the frequent references to the Christian God and saints bewildering when mixed so casually with talk of magic, but eventually enough clues are dropped that the reader can settle comfortably into this uniquely imagined world.
Tess is an intriguing protagonist, a mix of strength and vulnerability. She has a brave and loyal heart, yet has suffered years of abuse from her father. She distrusts men. Sometimes she stands tall, and sometimes she flees. Her reactions, however, are altogether human and a lot of readers will be able to relate. She teaches her audience what it means to be brave in the face of fear.
The dialogue is a bit awkward, the standard attempt at “fantasy” speech where people refuse to use contractions and often employ the present tense. At times, the dialogue contributes to demonstrating Tess’s fear, as she sounds inordinately subservient. This is somewhat logical, due to the characterization mentioned above, but there are places where it truly seems unintentional—the dialogue makes her sound more awkward in a given situation than the author might want her to.
The pace is generally pleasant. Carey weaves action, description, romance, and exploration beautifully together to craft a tale that truly has it all. The climactic scene would have benefited from being a little longer, as some characters really should have been more hesitant to believe the incredible and not simply accepted everything that was told to them. Nothing more was out of place, however.
Overall, a fantastic read I recommend to fans of the genre.
Published: January 5, 2012
Goodreads: Dragon Slippers
Series: Dragon Slippers #1
Summary: Raised by her aunt and uncle, Creel has proved only a burden to her struggling relatives. Her aunt accordingly hatches a plan to sacrifice the girl to the local dragon, in hopes that a rich knight will rescue Creel and bestow wealth upon the entire family. Creel, however, has no such plans. After rescuing herself from the clutches of the dragon and gaining a pair of comfortable slippers in the process, she strikes out for the capital with only some embroidery yarn in her pocket. There she hopes to find work as a seamstress—and perhaps, one day, to open her own shop. War threatens the country, however, and it just may be a peasant girl with an unusual pair of slippers who can save it.
Review: George cleverly takes some common fairy tale elements and turns them upside down, creating in the process a story as amusing as it is engaging. Led by its strong heroine, Dragon Slippers takes the readers on a magical journey that explores the power of the friendship and the discovery of self. Readers will cheer Creel on as she strikes out by herself, learning that the world is not always kind, but still believing in its ultimate goodness.
Creel proves herself a worthy modern-day heroine, capturing the sympathy of her audience from the moment she declines to wait around for a random knight to save her and takes charge of her own destiny. She freely acknowledges the awful comedy of her situation—the unlikelihood that a knight will bother to rescue a poor girl, the possibility that she might not even like the knight—then continues forward, determined to make a life herself with the scant means she possesses. Despite the daunting obstacles placed in her path and a propensity for getting into trouble, Creel perseveres, learning valuable lessons about friendship, love, and life. Her combination of spunk and cheerful good humor, along with a comical inability to see things right in front of her, proves irresistible. Creel seems like a friend, and readers will find themselves desperately wanting her to succeed.
A diverse cast of characters joins Creel, making the story come alive with all the types of personalities readers might expect to find in the real world. Not everyone is who they appear to be, and kindness and dishonesty, pride and generosity, shallowness and cunning meet together in the most unlikely of places. The failure of the majority of the characters to fit into any particular mold as “good” or “evil,” even when they clearly stand on one side or the other, gives the story a complexity that may not be at first apparent. Even so, this depth informs the story, making it seem both plausible and relevant despite the inclusion of a number of common fantasy elements.
Dragon Slippers enchants with its combination of likeable characters and fast-paced plot. Readers will surely desire to follow Creel and her friends in their subsequent adventures.
Series: Dragonbreath #1
Summary: Danny Dragonbreath is the only mythical creature in his school–and it is difficult for him to prove that he is is, in fact, a dragon since he cannot even breathe fire! A school assignment that leads to an undersea adventure with his friend Wendall, however, will prove that Danny can come through in dangerous situations.
Review: Dragonbreath is a clever read featuring a spunky and courageous protagonist. The book is a combination of “normal” book text interspersed with comic-like pages that tell parts of the story in ways that make them easier to digest and a lot funnier. Seeing the characters in silly situations with little exclamations of woe or disgust in their speech bubbles is highly amusing! This artistic approach also heightens the reader’s sense that Danny is a hero, even if he is still learning to breathe fire.
Danny is a really fun character to read about. He has an interesting sense of humor and an absolute conviction that the world is one big adventure waiting for him to find it. He never thinks he is a failure because he is a late-bloomer in the fire area or that there will be some danger too scary for him to face. His friend Wendall, an iguana, is the voice of logic in all his crazy imaginings. The two are a great pair.
Dragonbreath is quick, entertaining, and a little inspirational. It is a good book for those looking for a story told in a fresh way or who just want to go exploring the wonders and dangers of the ocean.
Summary: Rune washed up on the shores of the Geats as a baby and many have hated him ever since. They believe he was an offering to the gods and that, by saving his life, King Beowulf placed the kingdom in jeopardy. Now a young man, Rune struggles to fit into his society and to prove himself worthy to be a warrior. The awakening of a dragon gives him the perfect opportunity to show his mettle, but Rune fears he may fail his king in the hour of his need.
Review: The Coming of the Dragon intrigued me with its promise to elaborate on the story of Wiglaf, that enigmatical kinsman of Beowulf who shows up at the very end of the poem to play a pivotal role in the history of the Geats. The book sought to give a more human face to the events described by focusing on the people under Beowulf’s rule and by describing their everyday lives. I relished the opportunity to immerse myself more fully in the time period of the poem and to experience what it might have been like to live as a Geat, but, in the end, I think it may have been a mistake to write this book.
My first problem lies with the intended audience of the book. It is classified as middle grade and the age of the protagonist (Wiglaf here is only a boy on the cusp of manhood) as well as the language and writing style all bear this out. However, most people read Beowulf in high school. The intended audience is thus reading a book based on a poem they may know nothing about. Retellings should add a new dimension to a well-known tale, helping readers see the story in a new light or consider aspects they may have missed. The new dimensions give them their value. If readers have no familiarity with the original story, they may enjoy The Coming of the Dragon as a good adventure, but they are arguably missing out on the entire point of the book. Read the rest of this entry
Summary: The mysterious death of a professor draws together three strangers from Oxford, John, Jack, and Charles. Informed by a friend of the professor’s that they are now the Caretakers of an atlas of imaginary lands called the Imaginarium Geographic, the three set sail for the Archipelago of Dreams, where all the places of myth and literature exist. Chaos threatens the Archipelago, however, as the throne remains empty and a man called the Winter King covers the lands with shadow, turning the people into his slaves. To defeat the darkness, the Caretakers will have to battle not only legendary monsters, but also the monsters within themselves. The first in the Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica.
Review: Owen’s story rests on a brilliant premise—that somewhere a world exists with all the lands and creatures and characters from myth and legend, and that men and women from our world have traveled there. Those who feel the need to describe their adventures do so by disguising their experiences in literature. This concept allows Owen to bring together the best elements of some of the world’s greatest stories, creating an air of playfulness even as unfolding events make the outcome look grim for the protagonists. Some readers may find it difficult to accept the explanation that their favorite authors did not truly invent everything in their books and plays, and that they only based these on the true people and places found in the Archipelago, but, if one can get past this (after all, I would argue that the “true” characters are generally less exciting and original than their portrayals in other fiction), the Archipelago proves a magical and wondrous place where just about anything can happen. Read the rest of this entry