Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Review: The Dragon's Eye by Dugald Steer

Extent: 286 pages
Publisher: Templar
Pub Date: 1st October 2006

Adventure! Villains! And dragons, dragons, dragons! Brought to us by the creators of the runaway NEW YORK TIMES bestsellers DRAGONOLOGY and THE DRAGONOLOGY HANDBOOK, the Dragonology Chronicles are a series of dragon adventures told by one of Dr. Drake's young students. In Volume 1 of the Chronicles, THE DRAGON'S EYE, Daniel Cook and his sister, Beatrice, spend the summer with their parents' eccentric former tutor, Dr. Ernest Drake. Not only do Daniel and Beatrice begin to study dragonology, but they are also soon caught up in the race to find the stolen Dragon's Eye jewel - which has the power to reflect the true Dragon Master - before it is stolen by evil dragonologist Ignatius Crook. The two must work with Dr. Drake — as well as many friendly dragons — to foil Ignatius and recover the Dragon's Eye.

I love the Ology World books, especially Dragonology, and I think it’s even better when you’re a big kid who has had to accept that dragons don’t exist. Dragonology takes the subject of dragons utterly seriously, detailing different species, behaviour and tips on how to track and train them. The Dragon’s Eye is the first in a spin off series of YA fiction novels and ever since I read Dragonology I have been a little bit intrigued about what these books have to offer.

Well, quite a bit actually. I think the real strength in The Dragon’s Eye is the fact that it’s based on a pseudo-factual book, Dragonology. There’s a great sense that the book is based on real life events involving real creatures because there’s a boxful of literature that says so. The fantastical becomes the actual. It pulls on all the information you can find in the Dragonology books and gives it a storyline, and if you’re lucky enough to have the Ology books, you find yourself using them as some kind of reference guide despite the fact that you know it’s all made up. If you haven’t read Dragonology then fear not because The Dragon’s Eye is not dependent on it, you can still easily understand and enjoy the story as everything is explained. In fact, if you don’t know anything about dragons you’re in for a deep end learning experience as the lead characters don’t know anything to begin with either but end up experts.

The language has a wonderful Victorian quaintness about it, giving it an authenticity of the period and adding to the realism. Mixing this with the fantastical element of dragons makes for a great adventure story. I think my only real niggle is that it can be a bit too quaint at times. The lead characters are 12 and 13 so you imagine this is roughly the target reader age and it feels a little like the author is a bit out of touch with what 12 and 13 year olds are reading these days. It just lacks a bit of guts, you never feel like the heroes are in any genuine danger, the kind where the way out is not clear and there’s no one to rescue them. I found it a bit patronising at times and I’m sure modern young teens would feel the same – they can handle a lot more emotional depth in a story than this book allows.

Having said that, I still really enjoyed The Dragon’s Eye. Sometimes you just want a happy, heart-warming story where the good guys are guaranteed to win and that is certainly what is on offer here. There are also some incredible pencil drawings dotted around the book which add a great dimension and a visual treat. There should be more illustrations in books I say! Overall, this is a good story, harmless fun that’s toasty warm and that’s not just because there’s a lot of fire-breathing going on.

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