Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Dragons, Drones, Fairies, and School for Thieves

25776253King, Wesley. Dragons vs. Drones
March 15th 2016 by Razorbill
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Marcus lives with a friend of his father's after his mother's death and his father's disappearance. He has the unfortunate habits of getting in trouble in school and occasionally melting electronic equipment. He also thinks that the horrible storms that happen yearly in his town are somehow connected to his father's absence. Dree lives in Dracone, a medievalish world where she is apprenticed to a blacksmith who makes weapons used in fighting dragons. Dree would rather make mechanical toys, both because she is gifted at doing so, and because she has raised a dragon from a baby and doesn't wish to see them hurt. When the worlds of the two characters collide, Dree helps Marcus survive while the two watch helplessly as drones attack Dree's world. Thinking that the dragons might be able to fight the drones, Dree asks Lourdvang, her dragon friend, for help in contacting the different clans of dragons. This is fraught with peril, since the dragons are outraged at the changes in the relationship between humans and dragons. Since Dree's father was a dragon rider before he was injured, she has a better understanding of dragons than many, and hopes that they will be able to help avert more damage to the poorer sections of town. Marcus finds clues in Dracone that lead him to think his father has perhaps been taken into this new world, and he and Dree try to solve the puzzles to uncover why Dracone is under attack. They get some answers, but there are still questions to be answered in a second book. 

King, author of The Vindico series, as well as The Incredible Space Raiders from Space! can pen fantastic scenes of action, and he incorporates both medieval and science fiction elements to good effect. Dree's friendship with Lourdvang, as well as her ability to ride him and not get burned, nicely complements her accomplishments as a blacksmith, and Marcus shows that his skills at video games can be used to save the day. The Dree's willingness to help Marucs without asking too many questions when he plummets from the sky, combined with Marcus' blithe acceptance of a world rife with dragons allows the reader to quickly sink into the fantastic world of Dracone. 

There are a few other books that combine technology with mythical creatures: Savage's Fires of Invention or Diana Wynne Jone's Dark Lord of Derkholm make good follow up reads to this world-spanning novel until the next book in this series comes out.

I could have done without Marcus being bullied in his own world. It's such an overdone trope in fantasy literature. Maybe more sports players would read fantasy if they sometimes saw themselves represented on the pages!

25074799Harrison, Michelle. One Wish
March 8th 2016 by Little, Brown BFYR 
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

N.B. This seems to be a prequel to the 13 Treasures (13 Curses13 Secrets) series. I'm still a little confused about this. Tanya's story seemed very familiar, but the setting seemed different. 

Tanya moves into a house for the summer with her mother, but it is infested with very nasty fairies who want her gone. While Tanya is out in town, she meets a boy named Ratty who has a fairy companion named Turpin, and she follows him back to his home in a trailer by a run down castle to find out more bout why she can see fairies as well. She does, but then Ratty steals her memories, which is less than useful. When she meets up with Ratty again, she remembers enough to yell at him. Unfortunately, she gets sucked into a mystery involving his father's disappearance, and before she knows it, Ratty has been abducted as well. 

I enjoyed this series, but this book was somehow confusing. I'm debating whether I should purchase-- interest in this has died down, and there's something really disturbing about the fairies. They are depressing-- that's what it is! What good is magic if it is such a horrid nuisance! When even fantasy gets horribly depressing-- argh!

25716688Magaziner, Lauren. Pilfer Academy
February 16th 2016 by Dial Books
Copy provided by the publisher

George has a large, rather annoying family, so he relieves his stress by stealing various things from his brothers and sisters. He is frequently caught, and his mother calls him "naughty George". When he runs away after being caught, he falls into the clutches of Strongarm and Ballyrag, who lure him into an ice cream truck and cart him off to Pilfer Academy. They assure him that his parents will fall for a letter from a prestigious school, and that he will eventually graduate from Pilfer, even if it takes him 20 years. Luckily, he meets Tabitha at school, and the two become friends. They survive the classes about stealing things and making ransom notes, try to avoid the nastier students, and both end up at the top of their class, so they get special treats. After an assignment where he must steal a teddy bear from a toddler, George has an attack of conscious, and decides he wants out of Pilfer. It's not an easy thing to do, especially when the Dean, Dean Deanbugle, punishes him by putting him in the whirlyblerg, a dysfunctional carnival ride that makes the students sent there thrown up repeatedly. Thinking that Tabitha ratted him out, he is unsure whom he should trust, but he eventually makes an escape plan and returns home. 
Strengths: It's a good length for middle grade, and decently paced. If students like books like Salane's Lawless series and Hale's School for S.P.I.E.S. or The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy by Nikki Loftin, this would be a good book to hand them. This would also be good for readers who are big fans of Roald Dahl or the British dark humor.
Weaknesses: None of my students like Dahl or British dark humor. This has a lot of names that are supposed to be clever but are just vaguely annoying, and it lacks the action that make the other books appealing. I also didn't buy the whole kidnapping scenario (Bradley does it much better in Double Vision), nor did George's change of heart ring true. 

What I really think: Why are so many books like this published? I don't understand. I think I will pass my copy on to the elementary school, since it would just gather dust in my library. 

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