________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 19 . . . . May 15, 2009

cover Dragonmaster.

Karleen Bradford.
Toronto, ON: HarperCollins, 2009.
233 pp., pbk., $14.99.
ISBN 978-1-55468-072-6.

Grades 6-9 / Ages 11-14.

Review by Mary Thomas.

**** /4

excerpt:

"Good morning, Norl," she said with a smile. "We will work well this day, I'm certain of it. ... Let us begin" ... She gestured to the fire that burned in the hearth with a flame that produced heat but no smoke. The chamber brightened yet more.

Norl took up his position in front of her, fastened his eyes onto hers for a brief moment, then shut them and tried with every fibre of his being to block out the chamber, block out the light and the warmth, block out every thought but one.

"Stand loose, Norl," Catryn said. "Let your mind be still. You are trying too hard. ... Focus your mind. ... Turn inward. Feel the change begin within you. Feel your bones lighten. Feel the rush of your feathers. Feel it, Norl, and it will be so. You have the power within you. Grasp it. Let it flow through you."

Norl found he was holding his breath. He had a sense that everything had stopped, that the chamber and even the air within it had stilled. Time itself was waiting for what would happen next. ... Norl closed his eyes, willed himself to relax. For a moment he almost felt himself become lighter, become other ... then it was gone.

Once upon a time, there were only two books about the land of Taun by Karleen Bradford: Dragonfire and Whisperings of Magic. Now there are three, and with Dragonmaster, the story comes to its resolution. What is surprising, however, is that, although I had not read the earlier books, I found this third one totally compelling and utterly believable. The necessary background information was fed into the story as required, but without the artificiality that so often accompanies such updating and without turning off the flow of the narrative.

     Norl first encountered the evil dragon Cauldra three years earlier, and at that time, he pledged himself to return to her if only she would spare the ruler and the seer of Taun. Since then, he has been being coached by Catryn, the Seer, in an attempt to develop the magic which she is sure he has within him. Three years of intensive work apparently led to total failure. Finally Norl can bear it no longer and sneaks off to return to Cauldra to fulfill his promise, hoping that she will accept him as a sacrifice for the country and people that he has come to love.

     En route to her den somewhere in the mountains, he picks up a couple of rather odd travelling companions and also a strong intimation of a devastating evil beginning to invade the land, an evil apparently unconnected to his own particular mission. Norl's encounter with the dragon is not as decisive a moment as he had thought it would be, but it leaves him with more responsibilities that he must develop, powers, magical and personal, to cope with in order, once again, to save the country.

     Karleen Bradford has written a great book, and, for once, the cover art has not betrayed the contents. With any luck, the sinuous flaming dragon pictured there will encourage kids to try the first few pages, and then they will be hooked. Did I need to have read the earlier books to enjoy this one? No. Am I going to go hack and read the earlier books, knowing how the story comes out in the end? You bet!

Highly Recommended.

Mary Thomas works in an elementary school library in Winnipeg, MB, and really loves good fantasy writing.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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