Charlton’s debut is a fanciful tale of dragons, picture framing and princesses.
The novel begins promisingly: dragon parents, both employed at a framing shop run by a grizzly bear, await the hatching of their first clutch of eggs. Boomer, the first hatchling to emerge, flies faster than the speed of sound, while second-born Tink is so tiny that he fits in a coffee cup—one of the places he feels safest. Among the novel’s assets are utterly charming illustrations by Laura Reynolds and some lovely insights skillfully expressed (“seen from high altitude across large flat oceans and vast deserts, it is easy to understand why dawn is called a ‘crack,’ for it certainly splits the dark in two”). But the novel has two insurmountable weaknesses: The plot is thin to begin with (late in the story, for reasons not entirely clear, Tink faces a vague challenge friends and family help him prepare for) and the story is too cluttered for the novel to have the necessary dramatic tension. An overabundance of superfluous characters (including one who speaks in misspelled French, saying not mon dieu, but mon due or mon deu) appear only once or twice; although occasionally charming, they stall the story and make it difficult to remember the main characters. Long accounts of meals and the foods and beverages consumed at them (fish balls with various sauces, biscuits, chocolate, lots of coffee) grow tedious due to their frequency, length and ultimate irrelevance. Most damaging, the novel’s climax is repeatedly interrupted with cuts to quiet conversations and domestic scenes short on tension, fizzling away the power of Tink’s struggle and triumph. It’s a pity, because if focused, sharpened and streamlined, this could be a tight page turner sure to delight the young readers who should be its primary audience.
Too dense and erratic for children, and too adolescent for adults.