Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Battle Dragons- City of Thieves

London, Alex. City of Thieves (Battle Dragons #1)
September 21st 2021 by Scholastic
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Alec lives in the futuristic city of Drakopolis, which has some dystopian problems but is a thriving city. Alec's family struggles a bit: his father has scaly lung, his mother works in a dragon food plant, and his sister Lina is working at a cafe to help the family with money. His brother Silas is doing okay, and has been accepted into the Dragon Riders, which serves as a police/military entity to protect the citizens, but always seems a bit questionable. Alec failed his entrance exam to the Dragon Rider Academy, which was a bit of a relief. While he and his best friend Roa (who is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns) like reading comics about the daring exploits of Dr. Drago, dealing with ACTUAL dragons sounds dangerous. When Alec finds out that his sister has a secret life of crime and is herself riding dragons, he's leery of being asked for help, but follows her directions. He uncovers Karak, a dragon his sister has stolen, and with the help of a teacher at his school, Ally, as well as Roa, he learns how to take care of a dragon and starts to ride Karak, who bonds with him. Drakopolis is run by kins, which are like gangs, and it turns out that Lina is aligned with the Sky Knights, which have a revolutionary, Robin Hood vibe to them, but Roa is surprisingly aligned with the Thunder Wings, as is Ally. There is also a Red Talon kin, and they are threatening Alec's family because of Lina's activity. The kins have what amount to "rumbles"; battles that are "equal parts race, heist, and duel". These battles determine who has control of different neighborhoods and their resources, like dragons. Because Alec has a dragon, he is the center of a lot of activity to win his dragon over for a kin. He's not sure which one he should align himself with, and when a big battle is planned, he has to decide. Will he side with his sister, his best friend, or his brother, or forge his own path?
Strengths: Action and Adventure is the easiest way to draw in middle grade readers, and has a lot right at the start, and reminded me a bit of the first scene in the 1980s television show Voyagers! Watching the dragons setting fire to trash on the skyline and then having your sister pop into your bedroom window? Perfect! Academy settings, where students have science fiction, spy, or fantasy curricula are always in demand, and this is a mixture of all three. Roa is a good friend, with hidden depths of knowledge and connections. The sibling bonds add another interesting level. Of course, any book with epic dragon battles is going to be a popular title, and the cover is very appealing. This one will never return to the shelf! 
Weaknesses: I was never quite sure why society centered around the dragons and kept waiting for a lull in the action for an info dump about this. Adults LOVE info dumps, but students are more likely to just immerse themselves in the world without too many questions. It could have been clearer who the good guys were; I really couldn't tell, but that just could have been my own personal brain fog, which also would explain why every time the "Wind Breaker" kin was mentioned, all I could envision was my father's red, white and blue windbreaker with the hood that zipped into the collar! Perhaps we will get more explanation in future volumes. 
What I really think: This will be a hugely popular book with many different readers. Certainly my dragon contingent, who love Tui Sutherland and Sarah Beth Durst, will love the fact that Alec has bonded with Karak and has to learn how to take care of him. This will also appeal to fans of the new wave of fantasy dystopian novels like The Wild Huntsboys, because of all of the fighting and the way that society is not working. This had a decided video game feel to it, and a bit of a comic connection, and finally, readers who like London's books about war with like all of the fighting. I can probably even sell this to my sports enthusiasts, since it is an amazing amalgam of everything my readers like best.

Mbalia, Kwame. Tristan Strong Keeps Punching (Tristan Strong #3) 
October 5th 2021 by Rick Riordan Presents
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Also out today, the conclusion to the Tristan Strong  trilogy. Lots of different mythologies and folk lore, 400 pages, and rather challenging. I preferred The Last Gate of the Emperor, but this did have a lot of  interesting stories woven into it.  

From Goodreads:
"After reuniting with Ayanna, who is now in his world, Tristan travels up the Mississippi in pursuit of his archenemy, King Cotton. Along the way they encounter new haints who are dead set on preventing their progress north to Tristan's hometown of Chicago. It's going to take many Alkean friends, including the gods themselves, the black flames of the afokena gloves, and all of Tristan's inner strength to deliver justice once and for all."

Coming out August 9, 20221. I think the graphic novel will be much more accessible for my students who aren't huge fantasy fans. 

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