Yesterday, I finished my first book for 2014, Dragonspell by Donita K. Paul (Young Adult Fantasy, 334 pages).
“Once a slave, Kale is given the unexpected opportunity to become a servant to Paladin. Yet this young girl has much to learn about the difference between slavery and service. A small band of Paladin’s servants rescue Kale from danger but turn her from her destination: The Hall, where she was to be trained. Feeling afraid and unprepared, Kale embarks on a perilous quest to find the meech dragon egg stolen by the foul Wizard Risto. First she and her comrades must find Wizard Fenworth. But their journey is threatened when a key member of the party is captured, leaving the remaining companions to find Fenworth, attempt an impossible rescue, and recover the egg whose true value they have not yet begun to suspect …”
The very first and most important thing I have to say about this book is that it contains tiny, adorable baby dragons! I imagined them starting out as small enough to fit in the palm of your hand and that they didn’t get much bigger during the course of the book. I’m not one of those people who reads the glossary or appendix sections of books because I would rather understand what the author means just through context. The glossary in this book only briefly mentions three of the different types of dragons, but supposedly each dragon has different abilities based on color. I have the next book in the series and I could go and look to see if there is ever a dragon glossary that tells what the different dragon color abilities are, but I think I’d rather just continue reading and find out in the same way the characters do.
The best character in the book is the baby dragon Gymn. When Gymn is first born, he faints. He then spends a good portion of the book fainting when he gets scared. This amused me to no end because who would have ever thought of a fainting dragon? The descriptions of the dragons and their personalities are fantastic and well worth the read. The characters run into a variety of dragons throughout their adventures and each one felt different to me.
The world-building in this story is really interesting. The world is a peninsula, but a very large one with a variety of different races, different characters, and different lifestyles. Most of the differences are touched at here and there, but you’re definitely given a sense of how big the world is and that it’s populated by different people and animals, both good and bad. You see a lot of the world-building as the adventure progresses because those on Paladin’s quest run into a variety of creatures that intend them harm and they have to battle each one differently.
The band of adventurers never leave any of the battles unharmed, which I think is something I haven’t seen in many of the young adult books I’ve read. Usually, the heroes are so skilled that they defeat their enemies flawlessly. Not here. The book does an interesting job of showing how battle is not glorious and not fun, but the heroes here don’t have to progress with their injuries throughout all of their adventures. I think it could have added just a touch more realism if not all wounds could be magically healed, or if there was some negative or personal cost for each healing. Instead, healing is just magic and can be accomplished at any time with no cost, even to ease the pain of sore feet.
The one big drawback to this book for me was that it was strongly religious. I’m glad I read the book for the tiny, adorable baby dragons, the characters, and the world-building, but the religious undertones were a bit too strong for me. Overall, it was a fun and interesting book to read, but one which I might not read again.