October 30, 2007


By Robin McKinley
Rating 4 1/4 stars
Reviewed by Noelle

Kudos to established fantasy writer McKinley for doing the unexpected. Instead of putting us in a new fantasy environment, this novel places us in what seems to be normal, every day America with one big difference--dragons exist. Our narrator is the teenager Jake, who lives at the Institute, a nature preserve for dragons. And like most non-profit places, it is struggling to survive. Dragons, for all their size and glory, seem able to hide away, and almost no one ever sees them. They also seem to be dwindling in number. And then Jake goes on his overnight solo in the park and finds both a dead poacher and a dying dragon who just gave birth...and one of the dragonlets is still alive. Unthinking, Jake picks up the baby dragon and before he knows it, Jake becomes both the dragon's mom and on America's most wanted list for it is a crime to try and save a dragon's life. The Institute rallies around Jake and his big secret (whom he names Lois), and then things get really out of control. While Jake is learning all about dragons from birth on up with Lois, the Institute is under attack from a group trying to close them down for protecting dangerous creatures--the fallout of the dead poacher. Jake has to leave the Institute with Lois and head out into the backcountry to hide, and it there that he makes contact with other dragons. Real dragons. Big, fire-breathing, house-sized dragons. Can Jake find a way to communicate with the dragons and save the Institute? This novel is compelling, especially told from Jake's stream of consciousness point of view where raising a dragon is tackled from a very practical standpoint. The existence of dragons among us is enough to tease in many a reader, but all of them will stay to see what ends up happening with Lois, Jake and the Institute. Thumbs up!

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