The Dragon Whisperer by Lucinda Hare
|The Dragon Whisperer by Lucinda Hare|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Thoroughly enjoyable and beautifully written dragon fantasy with a good conflict between disparate protagonists. Plenty of appeal for a wide range of readers.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 416||Date: August 2009|
|Publisher: Bodley Head|
Quenelda has a special bond with dragons. It's so special that her father and his dragonmaster do their best to keep it quiet - it wouldn't do for anyone to wonder where it came from and whether or not it has anything to do with her mysterious and missing mother. She can speak their telepathic language and she longs more than anything to become a dragon warrior and fly one into battle against the hobgoblins alongside her father, Earl Rufus. If only she weren't a girl.
Root, on the other hand, doesn't like dragons at all. In fact, he is terrified of them. It's an honour to his dead father's service to the Earl that he's been chosen to be Quenelda's squire, but it doesn't feel like an honour to Root. It's more like a life sentence. But the Seven Kingdoms are under threat, from within as well as without, and these two must forge a bond if they are to fulfil their destinies and defeat the dark forces ranged against them...
I thought this was an absolutely gorgeous little book. It's charming but exciting too, and while I think it will find its most loyal audience amongst tween girls there's also plenty to appeal to boys and older teens. There are humans and dragons and dwarves and gnomes for the goodies, pitted against hobgoblins, sorcerers-gone-bad and genetically-manipulated hybrid dragons for the baddies. It's all very clearly delineated, but on the other hand nothing's laid on with a trowel.
The protagonists, Quenelda and Root, have a great deal to learn from one another and they spend a good deal of the book doing it. They're both fully-formed and credible people and the initial conflict draws in the reader, enabling them to feel much more involved in the partnership when it eventually forms. The world is deep and rich, fully-imagined with some wonderful backdrops of landscapes rendered as dangerous by nature as by enemies. And the dragons are absolutely wonderful.
I really can't think of much to criticise - there's a lot of fantasy fiction fiction featuring dragons, but it didn't feel derivative at all. If pushed, I'll say that the military terminology - Earl Rufus heads the SDS, dragon riders have comms systems - sometimes sounds modern in what is otherwise a traditional medieval fantasy setting and it grates a little. I also thought Quenelda was a poor name choice for a heroine - it sounds like an Ugly Sister name! - and I hope our poor heroine gets to be Dances with Dragons, as the dragons call her, in any following books. But these are mere nit picks in a very successful debut novel. It's going to be a huge hit, I'm sure.
If it's dragons they like, girls also get a pretty raw deal in Kate O'Hearn's Shadow of the Dragon sequence. Older readers (and adults) will enjoy The Iron Dragon's Daughter by Michael Swanwick. And of course nobody, but nobody, should miss A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K Le Guin. We also have a review of Dragon Whisperer: Flight to Dragon Isle by Lucinda Hare. Older readers will appreciate Seraphina by Rachel Hartman.
My thanks to the nice people at Bodley Head for sending the book.
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You can read more book reviews or buy The Dragon Whisperer by Lucinda Hare at Amazon.com.
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