"Matthews takes his exciting sword-and-sorcery tale to some unexpected places here, with well-drawn vignettes of Dockside society and a compelling backstory.”"– Kirkus Reviews
In this YA fantasy sequel, a boy who defeated dragons must confront a powerful magic wielder.
In Book 1 of this series, 12-year-old Alluencien “Al” Pilgrommor earned a zero rank on Testing Day, putting himself and his family in danger. He was sent away, but being zero also allowed Al to survive being bombarded with Potentia, “the source of all magic,” giving him special powers—some remaining untapped. In a great battle, Al poisoned and overthrew the dragons ruling his society, which freed the five races. Now, the grounds outside Castle Surflienne are littered with dragon corpses, and the imperious Magister Trejir arrives, appointing himself ruler. Feeling devastated by his father’s continued rejection and sensing danger from Trejir, Al goes to Dockside, where he learns two disturbing facts: the Feathers—a secret organization that helped Al kill the dragons—are being hunted, and Trejir has taken the boy’s mother hostage. Not only that, Trejir has gotten hold of a dragon egg and means to reestablish tyranny. As Al works to defeat Trejir, he gathers allies and becomes known as the boy with the sword, which is conspicuously a little too big for him. If Al can learn more about his abilities and how to use them in time, his coalition might have a chance. Matthews (Dragon Run, 2013) takes his exciting sword-and-sorcery tale to some unexpected places here, with well-drawn vignettes of Dockside society and a compelling backstory. For example, because the dragons rewrote history and claimed to have created humans, Al is a monster, not a hero, to many—including his own mother. Al’s enjoyably ragtag associates include the spirits of Castle Surflienne’s last human rulers, which inhabit the very stones. Al’s considerable powers are balanced by his feelings of rejection, and he grows through his experiences, learning to plan and think ahead. But diction is sometimes too modern; words like “mom,” “dad,” “guy,” “okay,” and the intensifier “super” take readers out of this medieval-ish world.
Effective worldbuilding, strong character development, and fast-paced action make for an entertaining adventure.
In a world ruled by dragons whose minions rank and brand people like cattle, one boy has the ability to change everything.
Al, Wisp and Trillia join the crowd of 12-year-olds waiting outside the castle on Testing Day. With relatively high-ranking parents—four—Al worries more about his friend, Wisp, whose parents sport the marks of rank two. Wisp, cavalier as always, gives Al a beaten-up hat to wear with an enigmatic message that it will give him the “luck of the Evans.” However, luck seems far from Al when a zero is carved on the back of his neck, indicating his worth and calling for not only his death, but the death of his whole family. Al’s only option is to run. He soon discovers that rank zeros are not worthless but dangerous, capable of overthrowing the dragons and freeing the five races from their slavery. Sword fights, a mysterious society and an impossible quest keep this inventive fantasy moving at a fast clip. Harry Potter fans hungry for a new hero will be drawn to Al, but stock characters and a predictable resolution combine to steal the magic.
A distinctive fantasy with obvious flaws, this still goes down pretty easy. (Fantasy. 8-12)