18 August, 2010

Book Review: Dragonhaven

Title: Dragonhaven
Publisher: G. P. Putnam's Sons
Genre: Fantasy/Science Fiction
Page Count: 342
Rating: 5 out of 5
Cover Rating: 3.5 out of 5. I like it, although I do think they could have added something a little more decorative for this particular edition. This cover's fine as it is, and I like the dragon with the words in the center of it against the sunset background, but it's just not screaming "PICK ME UP!" which is a pity seeing as Robin McKinley's books deserve the best covers you can get them. (If you want to see a cover I think is somewhat better and more dynamic than this one, go HERE.)

Inside flap:

Think yourself out of your comfy chair and your nice house with the roads and streetlights outside--and the ceiling overhead low enough that a fifty-foot dragon can't stand on her hind legs and not bump her head--and think yourself into a cavern full of dragons. Go on. Try.

Jake lives with his scientist father at the Makepeace Institute of Integrated Dragon Studies in Smokehill National Park. Smokehill is home to about two hundred of the few remaining Draco australiensis, which is extinct in the wild.
   There are five million acres of the Smokehill wilderness and the dragons rarely show themselves. Jake's never seen one except deep in the park and at a distance. They stay away from the Institute--and the tourists. But dragon conservation is controversial. Detractors say dragons are much too dangerous and much too expensive, and should be destroyed. Supporters say there is no record of their doing anything more threatening than eating sheep, there are only a few hundred of them left at best and they should be protected.
   But they are up to eighty feet long (plus tail) and breath fire.
   One Jake's first overnight solo in the park, he meets a dragon--the thing that he would have said he wanted above everything else in the world. But this dragon is dying--dying next to the human she had killed. Jake knows the news could destroy Smokehill. The dead man is clearly a poacher who attacked first, but that will be lost in the outcry against all dragons.
   But then Jake noticed something even more urgent: the dragon had just given birth, and one of the babies is still alive . . .

My expectations: I expected a good read, a good plot, excellent writing, and appealing characters.

I got it all and then some.

About the book: Overall, this was excellent. Scratch that last. Make that every single chapter was excellent, not just overall. I highly enjoyed reading about Jake's (poor Jake) adventures with dragons and baby dragons and evil school equivalency testers. This book is also funny; there are phrases that made me grin or even chuckle out loud while I was reading. There are also questions raised throughout about legal issues and politics. Now before you say "That sounds so BOR-ING!" let me explain that it is presented in a really interesting fashion. McKinley incorporates Jake's thoughts smoothly into the book and makes it feel natural for these topics to come up.

  • Plot:

I loved the plot. As you can see from the inside flap, he finds a baby dragon--or a "dragonlet"--next to the dead dragon and starts to take care of it. To make a long story short, there are a lot of problems with keeping a baby dragon safe and secret from all the prying tourists, government officials, and law-makers who want to crackdown on Smokehill for the poacher's death. So Jake is forced to be hidden away with one of the park Rangers named Billy and his wife Grace who take care of him and the dragon for a time. After that, it's Lois (he names the dragonlet Lois) growing up and then something momentous happens in meadow which changes everything.

  • Characters:

I loved Jake. Poor guy. He couldn't talk to any people but a few, he had constant headaches, he had a dragonlet to take care of for goodness' sake, and he has to worry about the fate of Smokehill--and how it ties to the dragonlet. I found him an appealing character due to his personality and to his rather take-it-as-it-comes attitude.

Lois (the dragonlet) is funny. She can't talk or anything, but it's interesting to see how a dragon might grow up.

Billy is quiet, smart, and sensible. I like this Ranger, and I also like his wife, Grace. As for the other Rangers, there really isn't much about them but they seemed to be made of somewhat similar stock.

Eleanor is a pain in neck. She's a little kid, and little kids are alway inquisitive--not a good thing if you're trying to keep a major secret like a dragon. I liked her spunk.

Martha is smart. I really liked Martha since she seemed like a strong character and sensible. She isn't about the throw herself off a cliff or do anything drastic.

  • Setting/Other Factors:

Well, there are DRAGONS. I mean, dragons are usually a big draw in a book and they were an even bigger draw due to the nature of the writing, characters and the plot. I loved Smokehill--get me out there with a backpack! The world the Park is in is closely related to Earth: basically, it's the same thing except, obviously there are dragons.

I loved the way McKinley presented dragon development, personality, habits, and relationships. I really liked reading about how dragons hot, how the igneventators are rumored to be the source of the dragon's fire, and about what they look like and their size.

Other: There is a bad word here and there. It's not all that repulsive, though, and the rest of the book sort of balances it out. Sometimes language can be annoying and just overboard, but I don't think that's the case with this one.

I am astonished that I actually struggled through the first 100 pages at one point. This is actually my third or so time trying to read this book through, but this time I finished it in a day. I can't believe I was so stubborn. :P

Do I recommend this book? If you haven't noticed the 5 out of 5 rating, or the "I loved . . ." and "I really liked" beginnings of sentences then let me tell you now: I highly recommend this book!

-----The Golden Eagle

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Caroline said...

Do you like any other Robin McKinley stuff? I've tried reading some of her other books (Spindle's End, The Outlaws of Sherwood, etc.) but couldn't really get into them.:)

Icewolf said...

I didn't quite find it that interesting, but then again I read it about 2 years ago...

John The Bookworm said...

I must read this! I am a Robin McKinley fangirl. :P She's one of those authors that I can't help but love every time.

Golden Eagle said...

Caroline: I read Chalice and liked that one, but I haven't read anything else by her . . .

Icewolf: Oh. Well, sometimes books are more interesting the second time around.

John: She is. :)