Friday, July 17, 2015

Dragon Masters: Rise of the Earth Dragon; Saving the Sun Dragon by Tracey West, illustrated by Graham Howells

 I was so annoyed with the last beginning chapter series I tried (Kingdom of Wrenly) that I didn't feel like ever reading another beginning chapter fantasy again. However, several people suggested this Branches series, "Dragon Masters" and I got back up onto the horse (or dragon, as it may be) and gave it a go.

I really liked it. It's not perfect, it's not exactly what I'm looking for, but it avoids a lot of the flaws I've seen in other beginning chapter fantasies and I think it will be popular.

In the first book, Rise of the Earth Dragon, Drake gets taken from his family's onion farm up to the castle to become a dragon master. He's assigned to an earth dragon, whom he names Worm, and meets the other dragon masters and their dragons. Drake is excited and scared to be a dragon master, especially when the other kids aren't friendly and it becomes apparent that there many secrets; what does King Roland want with the dragons? Why are they a secret?

The second book, Saving the Sun Dragon, continues the story. After the children's adventure in the tunnels, when they are saved by Worm, some of the dark magic they encounter has affected Ana's dragon, Kepri. The children and the wizard who mentors them try to heal her, especially when King Roland threatens to take away Wizard Griffiths, but they are unsuccessful. Only when Drake discovers another secret power of his dragon Worm are they able to heal Kepri - and go on an exciting adventure.

Each of the four children are loosely associated with the nationality of the mythology their dragon is drawn from. Worm and Drake, and the general setting of the story, are Welsh, Rori and her dragon Vulcan are Irish/British, Bo and his dragon Shu are Asian, Ana and her dragon Kepri are Persian maybe? The stories still stick to the European boy as underdog hero, but at least a variety of nationalities and genders are included. I also liked that the stories don't glorify feudalism (or, at least they haven't yet). King Roland isn't the good and wise king of Disneyfied fairy tales and the children and dragons miss their homes and families.

Verdict: There are not a lot of beginning chapter fantasies available and I don't get asked for them often, but I wonder if that's cause and effect; if there were more available (and I promoted them more) would kids ask for them more? Regardless, I think this is the best that I've looked at so far. Tracey West has an engaging writing style and knows what kids will enjoy reading. If you're looking for beginning chapter fantasies, these are a good choice.

Rise of the earth dragon
ISBN: 9780545646239

Saving the sun dragon
ISBN: 9780545646253

Published 2014 by Scholastic; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

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