Tuesday, June 14, 2022

The Lost Ryū

Cohen, Emi Watanabe. The Lost Ryū
June 7th 2022 by Levine Querido
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Kohei lives in Japan in the 1960s. The memory of World War II is still fresh, but the large dragons that used to thrive in the area are gone, superseded by smaller dragons that accompany people. Kohei has a dragon, Yuharu, whom he loves, but his grandfather, Ojiisan, is having a miserable old age since he is missing the larger dragons. When new neighbors from the US move in, Kohei isn't thrilled, but gets to know Isolde, who is his age. She is half Japanese and half Russian, and has a Yiddish speaking dragon named Cheshire. She agrees to help him find out about the larger dragons in order to help out his grandfather. His father is gone, but he hopes to find clues in his father's office. Based on what they find, the two decide to take off to the coast by train and to try to get to Ryūgū-jō, a dragon sanctuary off the coast, to hatch an ōyatama (dragon) that will help the grandfather's mood. Their plan is tricky, but they learn a lot about each other's pasts, and even though things don't always go well, Kohei and Isolde benefit from the journey in many ways. 
Strengths: I always love reading books set in other countries, and right now a lot of my students are always very much interested in Japan. Dragons are also extremely popular. The idea of having one's own dragon, a very small one that is super helpful, is such an intriguing possibility. I loved that Kohei was so concerned with his grandfather's well being, even though the two had a somewhat rocky relationship. Isolde is an interesting character, and her feelings of not fitting in no matter where she is will speak to many middle grade readers. The adventure by train to the coast, and the magic they experience with the dragons, is the best part of the book, but I don't want to go into too many details. This was well-paced, moved quickly, and offers just enough details about the dragons. While I appreciated the historical setting, this isn't really a historical fiction novel. (Which can still be a hard sell in my library, although interest has grown over the last few years.)
Weaknesses: My students don't have much historical knowledge. While I could tell this was set several years after WWII, it would be great for younger readers to be told right away an approximate year. Also, I didn't take notes on this and suffered some Fantasy Amnesia, so apologize for abbreviated review. A dragon on the cover would not have hurt my feelings and would have helped get the book into the right students' hands. 
What I really think: Because of the popularity of Tui Sutherland's Wings of Fire series, dragon books are much in demand in my library. It's great to see a story centered on Japanese dragons, and I'll gladly add this to my list of newer dragon books like the Tsang's Dragon Mountain, London's Battle Dragons, Halbrook's Silver Batal series, Pasternack's Anya and the Dragon, Prineas' Dragonfell, Burgis' The Dragon with the Chocolate Heart  Durst's Spark, as well as  older dragon titles

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like a great story. I love the setting and am glad to hear it's a fast-paced story.