________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 18 . . . . January 15, 2010

cover

The Last Dragon. (Dragon Speaker Series, #1).

C. A. Rainfield.
Toronto, ON: High Interest Publishing/HIP Books, 2009.
111 pp., pbk., $12.95.
ISBN 978-1-897039-46-5.

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Katie Edwards.

** /4

excerpt:

Jacob gritted his teeth and pulled the arrow out. He clenched his teeth so hard pain shot through his jaw. Spots of light danced in front of his eyes. It couldn't end like this! It couldn't end with Jacob and Orson being killed by Lord Manning's men. Not with Jacob failing, again.

"No!" he screamed, his voice ringing out.

As Jacob's scream died away, the sky grew dark with birds. Birds poured from clouds and treetops like hail. Their sharp cries screeched on and on like an ungodly chorus. The beating of their wings sounded like drums.

In wave after wave, the birds fell upon the guards.

Like any good hi-lo (high interest / low reading level) book, this one opens with a lot of action. Within the first few pages, Jacob communicates telepathically with birds, tangles with the evil wizard Kain, and begins a quest to save the last dragon.

     Jacob is an unlikely hero. He was seriously injured in an accident which left him with a permanent limp and weakness in his leg. Berated by his cruel father, Jacob still tries hard to please him.

     Kain is extremely powerful and has helped Lord Manning displace the rightful king. A crow informs Jacob that Kain is trying to find the last dragon in order to kill it and absorb its power. The crow explains that Jacob is The Chosen One, a prophesied hero who can speak to dragons. It's up to Jacob to protect the creature and to defeat Kain and Manning.

     Orson, a blacksmith's son who dreams of being a knight, joins the quest in order to support his friend Jacob both physically and emotionally. Soon they run into Lia, a mysterious girl who very conveniently turns out to be a dragon healer.

     The dragon quickly appears and demands that Jacob save her egg from the wizard. It seems that she is not the last dragon after all, but she will be if the egg is not recovered.

     Jacob and Orson storm the castle and are thrown into the dungeon where they meet Aldous, a fellow prisoner who is full of handy information about Jacob's psychic talent. Jacob and Orson do not question this, however, as they are too busy escaping and fighting once again.

internal art

     In the end, Jacob and his companions lose the mother dragon but save the precious egg which hatches into a baby dragon for them to raise.

     The action in The Last Dragon is non-stop and will definitely maintain the interest of reluctant readers. There are plenty of battles, but the blood and gore is glossed over without detail: "The man fell to the ground, his blood spurting."

     However, the action is so fast that areas that do require some explanation are passed over. For instance, a crow has an extended dialogue with Jacob at the start of the book, but at the end, none of the birds can understand the message "Get me the key." Instead, Jacob has to send them mental pictures of the key and the dungeon.

     The plot is also almost entirely chronological, with just one flashback scene near the beginning of the book. This makes the story easy to follow, even for struggling readers. Sentences within the book are short, and the vocabulary is appropriate for reluctant readers. A few words that might cause confusion, such as "quiver" and "scabbard," are pointed out in the accompanying Teacher's Guide.

     Although the content of this book may interest readers older than 12, the presence of illustrations will drive teenagers away. On top of that, the grayscale pictures are low-quality and crudely drawn: they will not be very appealing to younger children either. On the other hand, they do break up the text of the book and will likely contribute to understanding. The covers of the books are of much higher quality and will help to draw readers in.

     Overall, The Last Dragon is a good start to the series, despite some minor plot holes.

Recommended.

Katie Edwards is the Cybrarian (Teen Services) for Calgary Public Library.

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

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.
 

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