Goodreads: Alliana, Girl of Dragons
Age Category: Middle Grade
Source: Publisher for Review
Publication Date: August 2, 2022
Once upon a time, Alliana believed in dreams and fairy tales as sweet as spun-sugar clouds. Alliana wished on shooting stars, sure that someday she and her grandmother would be able to travel to the capital city to see the queen. Then her grandmother passed away—and those dreams disappeared in a disenchanted puff.
Now Alliana’s forced to attend to the whims of her wicked stepmother—with long days of cleaning her stepfamily’s inn as her skin burns raw or staying up until the crack of dawn to embroider her stepsister’s ball gowns. Until she meets two beings who change her life forever—the first is a young nightdragon who Alliana discovers she can magically talk to. And the second is Nela, a young witch.
Nela needs Alliana’s help navigating the mysterious abyss, filled with dangerous beasts, a place Alliana knows by heart. Alliana sees Nela’s request as a chance to break free of her stepmother’s shadow and to seize a chance at a life she’s barely dared to hope for—but there’s a risk. If caught, Alliana will be stuck working for her stepmother for the rest of her life. Can Alliana truly make wisps of dreams into her own, better-than-a-fairy-tale happily ever after?
Inspired by the Japanese Cinderella story and set in the same world as the Eva Evergreen series, this story can be read as a standalone.
Alliana, Girl of Dragons is a cute story inspired by “Cinderella” that will have readers cheering for Alliana as she strives to follow her dreams when few people around her seem to believe in her, and when she has so few resources to make them come true. There are no princes here, and it isn’t a love story, but rather a tale of using your talents and finding the courage to help make your happily ever after come true.
I enjoyed this twist on the classic fairy tale plot, though “enjoyed” is maybe not the right word since I always feel absolutely horrible for the “Cinderella” characters as they get mistreated and everything seems lost for them. I kind of cringe through all the meanness of the other characters and can’t wait for things to start changing for the protagonist and good things to happen! To that end, I liked that protagonist Alliana doesn’t start completely alone; her grandmother is in her corner, and though she can’t really protect Alliana from her cruel stepfamily, she is a ray of light and hope, and Alliana and the readers know they can rely on her to bring some kindness into the story. I also loved the implications that family is not formed just from blood ties; your family is those you choose to love.
Adding dragons to the story is also an interesting touch, though I admit there were fewer dragon scenes than I was imagining based on the summary of the book. Additionally, Alliana and her nightdragon seem to bond rather quickly, and I would have liked to see a bit more natural growth, rather than an immediate foray into the dragon declaring his undying loyalty and love, which seemed to be based on very little. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized these things probably would not have been issues to me as a younger reader. If I were ten years old and reading this book, I likely would have been completely captivated and bought fully into the bond between the characters, without any questions. So I think this is going to be a win for the target audience, even if I thought, as an adult, there could be more development here.
Overall, there’s a lot to like: a strong and kind protagonist, a world filled with magic and dragons, a plot about finding yourself and working for your dreams. Young fantasy lovers will definitely find this a hit. (And it’s true you can read it as a standalone and don’t need to have read the author’s other books!)
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