Wolf’s (The Misses Brontë’s Establishment, 2015) YA fantasy delivers a troubled, modern-day teenager to a land populated by kindly dragons and villainous slayers.
When she was 10 years old, Mattie Sharpe of Burbank, California, found a dragon egg in LA’s Griffith Park. After it hatched, she named the dragon Toutles, and they became best friends. Eventually, however, Toutles grew too large to hide in Mattie’s room, so her mother ordered her to take the creature to the zoo. The girl instead freed her companion in Griffith Park, only to see him vanish through a shimmering portal. Seven years later, Mattie is still scarred by the loss of her friend; she hangs out with bullies, drinks, and worries little about failing high school. One day, she cuts class and visits the famous Chinese theater in Hollywood. When she sees one of its dragon sculptures move, she’s compelled to run toward it, and doing so propels her into the realm of Cavernis, where she reunites with her childhood friend, now called Artorius. The consumption of a bit of dragon’s blood helps her understand him and other giant reptiles who attend the Academia Sollertibus Hydris, or the Academy for Clever Hydras. The school’s president, Praeses, informs her that she’s in Cavernis to fulfill a prophecy—one that pits her against the followers of St. George. Wolf does an excellent job of portraying teenage cynicism; for example, Mattie, who used to love animals, says, “Why bother to save the world—or its wildlife...when corporate greed was doing its best to destroy it?” Our heroine’s attitude begins shifting, though, once she’s in Cavernis facing new challenges, such as learning to sword fight and joust, and engaging in a surreal social life. The author has fun representing every kind of dragon imaginable, including two-legged wyverns, half-human nāgas, and the long, rippling Asian variety. She also craftily builds upon the legend of St. George and the dragon to give the academy a nation of worthy opponents. Woven finely throughout is a subtle romance that readers will be eager to see blossom in future installments. An all-out-war in this book’s finale should please action fans.
A sparkling series opener featuring dynamic, winsome characters.