Dragonskin Slippers by Jessica Day George
|Dragonskin Slippers by Jessica Day George|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Magda Healey|
|Summary: An engaging adventure for girls with some humour, interesting dragons, lots of action and a likeable heroine, unfortunatelly suffering from rickety writing, this one is to borrow rather then buy, probably most suitable for tweenage girls looking for an undemanding adventure story: good for a weekend with a bad cold.|
|Buy? No||Borrow? Maybe|
|Pages: 256||Date: June 2007|
|Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC|
Fifteen-year-old Creel is not particularly enthusiastic when her unkindly aunt leaves her to a dragon in a faint hope that a eligible prince will rescue her and provide with a suitable marriage. Creel is distraught, but doesn't really believe in dragons. However, one does indeed appear: not particularly keen on eating Creel, he ends up not only letting her go but introducing her to his marvellous collection of shoes, and parting with a pair of marvellously comfortable, and rather attractive blue slippers.
Creel sets off on her journey to Kingseat, where she intends to find work as an embroideress. On her way she meets another dragon, this one a collector of stained glass windows that inspire her embroidery designs and eventually arrives in the royal capital of the land, where she finds work, meets a prince and falls foul of a rather nasty princess who sets her eyes on her shoes. Only when they are stolen does she learn that they were magical shoes, made from the hide of a dragon queen, and enable the wearer to control all the dragons in the country. A war starts, and Creel has more than one part to play in it. Is dragon fire going to destroy the Kingseat? Is Princess Amalia going to win? Are the dragons to be ever liberated, or fought as dumb beasts they become under the power of the slippers?
The plot is probably the strongest point of the Dragonskin Slippers: it has plenty of action and although it's very straightforward indeed (no twists in this dragon's tail and no subplots either), it is quite compelling, with the reader genuinely engaged and, as befits a decent adventure story, desperate to find out what happens next. Some solutions appear a bit too out of the blue, but not offensively so.
I also liked the dragons : they had some depth and interest mostly unafforded to human characters, while the idea of dragon hoards consisting of things they collect, from shoes to dogs to stained glass windows was an entertaining one and well developed and made use of in the novel.
The main character appeals from the very beginning. Creel is a strong, feisty, determined girl who has an untempered tongue, no respect for her social betters and a talent for negotiating - even with dragons. She has a good heart, is a faithful friend that can be relied upon and shows good sense and bravery throughout. Despite Creel being 15 years old in the novel (ideal age for a coming of age story and a moral lesson or two) nothing of the sort happens: we are told of her fears and occasional insecurity or two, but her moral spine remains unchallenged: Creel is a definite goodie.
Other humans are more sketchily drawn, though mostly not unacceptably one-dimensional, apart from the baddies, and in particular Princess Amalia, who are terrible caricatures rather than even half-fleshed characters. As mentioned already, dragons are treated with more loving attention and all have discernibly individual personalities and idiosyncrasies.
With its good plot, a world with a few novel features and a likeable heroine Dragonskin Slippers had a potential for a good adventure story for girls. However, its writing is of at best mediocre quality. There is nothing terribly offensive there, but overall it jarrs enough to be noticeable, at least to an adult reader. The style is a bit rickety, with the language a mixture of slightly anachronistically modern and ironic with an occasional burst of unnecessarily archaic as in large, damp room with some imposing but not particularly inspiring rock formations not far away from my girl cousins met their swains to canoodle. The descriptions are flat and unmemorable. The dialogue isn't too bad considering, though it has moments of supreme awkwardness. Overall, I would place it somewhere between Dan Brown and J.K. Rowling: nothing as bad as the former but not yet as smooth (though blandly uninspired) as the latter.
Dragonskin Slippers is an emotionally undemanding, simple and entertaining fantasy suitable for younger teens and older confident readers, though younger children would probably need a bit of help with some of the stylisation. On the psychological plane the book would be accessible to children as young as 6 as it's very straightforward in both plot and motivations of its characters, though language wise they would most likely struggle and it's not particularly suitable for reading aloud.
Despite its failings on the writing front, I was rather caught up in Creel's (and the dragons') adventures: the story rolls on at good speed and it's unpredictable enough to provide a few hours of fun. Most children won't notice the occasional clumsiness of style while appreciating the pace, the humour and the entertaining detail, be it about the dragon hoards or the designs of the gowns Creel's making. One to borrow if you have (or are) a tweenager with liking for easy fantasy: a step up from Rainbow Magic, perhaps.
Thanks to the publisher for providing the BookBag the opportunity to entertain itself with the shoe-collecting dragons.
Ursula LeGuin's classic Earthsea series develops the dragon motif in its later parts, though we encounter some inklings of what's to come in the first book The Wizard of Earthsea.
You can read more book reviews or buy Dragonskin Slippers by Jessica Day George at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Dragonskin Slippers by Jessica Day George at Amazon.com.
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