Kira (Shadow of the Dragon) by Kate O'Hearn

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Kira (Shadow of the Dragon) by Kate O'Hearn

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Loralei Haylock
Reviewed by Loralei Haylock
Summary: A pacy fantasy adventure full of action and magic, this first part in a series will have kids waiting eagerly for the part two.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 368 Date: April 2008
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books
ISBN: 978-0340945285

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Girls get a raw deal in Kira's world. They can't leave their homes without an escort and they can only travel to neighbouring villages. They can't be educated, they can't hunt or fight, or do anything considered boyish. They must be married by the age of thirteen, and under no circumstances are they allowed near dragons. This is the First Law and the penalty for breaking it is death.

Kira is twelve and doesn't want to be married. She wants to be a Dragon Knight, like her father before her. If she can't go to the palace to train, then she will go to the Rogue Mountain and tame Ferarchie, the most vicious dragon ever to curse the land.

But then the evil Lord Dorcon burns her home to the ground. Kira and her younger sister Elspeth escape, but the rest of their family aren't so lucky. Their parents are taken away to the palace of the cruel king, their brother Dane is sent to war, and their other sister Kahrin is sent to Lasser Commons, a terrible prison, where she awaits execution.

So begins a rollercoaster of an adventure, following Kira and Elspeth as they struggle to evade Lord Dorcon as he tries to hunt them down. Their journey takes them through the wilderness, to the summit of the Rogue Mountain, and to a magician's castle where the stairs go nowhere and the doors lead to different places depending on which way you walk through them.

This first part of the Shadow of the Dragon series has all the action and magic you would expect from a fantasy adventure story. The pace is relentless from the moment the book opens with Kira's cry of: I don't want to get married! But alongside this page turning drama are a number of elements that add depth and originality to the tale.

Kira's struggle to protect her little sister as they are pursued by knights and nearly eaten by dragons adds a very human element to the story, and the trials and terrors of war faced by their older brother, Dane, are as gritty and realistic as they can be, given the fight is on dragon back.

It's also nice to see a book that doesn't romanticise dragons. Too many fantasy novels treat them as kind and friendly towards humans. It's refreshing to see them portrayed as wild, unpredictable animals, controlled by human ruthlessness.

On the surface, this book could be viewed as a simple adventure story, but more astute readers will notice the undercurrents of serious issues O'Hearn explores. From human rights and slavery to animal cruelty, this book encourages the reader to think about the injustices of the world without being preachy. It seems to be a trend with good children's authors recently to encourage thinking, rather than just providing pleasant escapism, and the books we get as a result are all the better for it.

This first adventure sets a benchmark, and if O'Hearn can continue to match it, or better it, then Shadow of the Dragon looks set to be a fantastic fantasy series for children. I bet the cliffhanger ending has plenty of kids waiting eagerly for the next part already.

My thanks to the publishers for sending a copy of this book.

Fans of fantasy adventure series might also like The Seventh Tower series by Garth Nix. We can also recommend The Blood Guard by Carter Roy.

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