Dragons compete with humans and try to integrate into 21st-century life in Smith’s clever, witty YA debut.
Jason Hewes is an ordinary American kid living on a farmstead in Montana with his dad, an archaeologist at the Montana Archaeological Society. One night after a terrible storm, Jason discovers a dragon in the barn, and his ordinary, if slightly troubled life—his mother and older brother were killed in a car crash, and he’s preyed upon by school bullies—suddenly takes a surreal twist as he tries to understand how this great mythological being suddenly entered his life. The dragon, Petros, can understand human speech, and after Jason’s initial reservations, the boy strikes up a friendship and agrees to help the beast learn more about modern human society, which will hopefully result in peaceful coexistence. More dragons join, along with a group of select teenagers—later known as the Draconauts—and an agreement is made to seek out a mage who can help disguise the creatures so they won’t be so conspicuous in city life. The entry of Norm the mage signals a turning point in the book: An experiment to disguise the creatures goes awry, resulting in dragons only being able to exist in human form and children in dragon form. Once this highly unusual premise is accepted, seeing the human world through dragons’ eyes, and vice versa, becomes quite compelling. It’s hard not to laugh when the rather formal-speaking dragons occupy the teenagers’ bodies; in a particularly funny scene, Petros (transformed into Jason) tries to conduct a children’s party at the local museum. But Norm’s magic has drawn the attention of an age-old enemy and a sinister sect intent on ridding the world of dragons, which puts the children in terrible danger and gives the book an edge to keep the tension rising as the kids try to outwit a menacing foe.
An unusual book for dragon lovers, with plenty of action and a good balance of humor and suspense.