Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Dragonfell, The Queen's Secret

Prineas, Sarah. Dragonfell
March 26th, 2019 by HarperCollins
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Rafi has always been a little different, but he and his father scratch out an existence in their small village, where his father weaves cloth. When two suspicious looking characters, Gringolet and Stubb show up at their door and talk about cottages in a neighboring village being set on fire, Rafi treats it as a threat. His angers flares... and Stubb is badly burned. This brings a visit from Mr. Flitch, the owner of the biggest factory in Skarth, who claims that Rafi is "dragon touched" and must come with him for his own safety. When Rafi refuses, Flitch threatens to exact revenge on the people of the village, so Rafi runs away. It's true that Rafi looks a bit wild, and doesn't feel heat or cold like most people do, but he's still surprised when his father tells him of an event that happened when Rafi was small. A dragon called him up to the Dragonfell, and breathed fire on Rafi's father when he tried to take Rafi away. When Rafi meets the quirky Maud on his travels, she is not worried about his differences, and the two (along with an ever growing number of goats) make their way to Skarth. They steal a book that outlines the whereabouts of the few remaining dragons from Flitch's office in the factory, and end up on the run in a vapormobile from Flitch's minions. They end up at the Ur-Lair, where Rafi is able to communicate with the dragons and find out more about Flitch's evil plans to hurt the dragons and further his factories. Surprising things surface about Maud and Rafi, but in the end, the villagers in Rafi's community decide to try to side with the dragons and eschew the progress that Flitch promises.
Strengths: Dragon books have their fans, and this one included some new dragon lore. That dragons all hoard something, but not necessarily the same thing (blue flowered pottery, clocks, books, mittens and knitted things!) was particularly fun. Rafi and Maud have a good working relationship, and the twists concerning their identities were unexpected. The setting is a bit different from most medieval dragon books; I can see how the industrial revolution could have contributed to the extinction of dragons. Prineas's writing is always solid, and this moved along at a brisk pace.
Weaknesses: I was confused as to what the essential message was. Dragons are good, but industrialization is bad? Why was Flitch so evil? Couldn't the factories run without the dragons?
What I really think: This wasn't anything particularly fresh, but fans of dragon fiction seem to always want to same sort of Anglo-Celtic setting with thatched cottages and plots revolving around dragons being endangered. I'll probably buy it, but I didn't enjoy it as much as The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart or Dragons vs. Drones.

George, Jessica Day. The Queen's Secret (The Rose Legacy #2)
May 14th 2019 by Bloomsbury Children's Books
E ARC from Netgalley

Thea is back, but things are still not right in the kingdom. A photographer has been sent "by the Crown" to take pictures of the horses, but Thea begins to realize that the man means the king and not the Queen Josephine. There is a sickness going around on Thea's side of the wall called "the Dag" because the sufferers have a cough that is like a dagger in their chest, and people are starting to suspect that the horses may somehow be causing it. A team of scientists also arrive to try to find a cure, and the doctors (who are all women) even include Thea and Jilly in their research. When Keth and other members of the Horse Guard become ill, more work falls on those who are well, and the situation becomes more and more serious. There is also the threat of a war with Kronenhof, and the suspected involvement of Thea's evil mother. Thea manages to make some important discoveries, but there is to be one more book in the series to finish things up.
Strengths: A three book fantasy series with strong female characters, Rose Maidens, evil mothers, and HORSES is perfect. It has enough of a fairy tale feel that fantasy readers who like Zahler, E.D. Baker, and Leisl Shurtliff will love this one. The medical research was great, and I loved that all of the doctors were women. Jilly and Thea are a great pair, and they get to travel all over as couriers, and The Way makes it possible for Thea to communicate with horses, even at a distance! This was a quick and fascinating read. Warning: if you want to give this as a give to an avid reader, wait until all three books are out and give them all together!
Weaknesses: Have to admit to a little fantasy amnesia about the first book and all of the details abotu Thea's mother and the genesis of the kingdom's split over horses. That's just me-- younger readers will remember everything, especially the horses' names!
What I really think: Definitely purchasing. It's not a series that will fall to pieces in two years, but will manage to hang on and circulate steadily for about twenty, which is my favorite kind of book because it's money well spent!

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