A girl with a tragic past discovers the true value of her abilities in this middle-grade fantasy from Purpus (Dragon Magic, 2014).
When an earthquake severely injures 7-year-old Lucy and kills her mother, it’s only the beginning of the girl’s misfortunes. For years afterward, she suffers bullying at school, abuse from her father and her employer at the Cliffside Animal Clinic, and physical pain from her earthquake injury. Her only comfort is when she soothes ailing animals, as she has the ability to sense their thoughts. When Lucy finally reaches her breaking point, she’s discovered by a Dragon Rider, one of an elite squad of young women and men who assist those in need while flying on the backs of dragons. The group takes Lucy in, and she soon learns that her skills with animals may be stronger and more valuable than she thought. As she develops her talents, Lucy begins healing her physical and emotional wounds by making new friends and finding a new “family.” Like many other fantasies written for a young audience, this novel is a wish-fulfillment tale for those who have been bullied or otherwise made to feel as if they don’t belong. Lucy is a likable heroine with relatable flaws to go along with her blossoming gifts. Young readers will particularly enjoy the moments when Lucy soars on the back of her beloved dragon, Harriet. The pacing is a bit uneven, and the exposition can be excessive—a telepathic cat’s abilities, for example, are explained no less than three times. However, the descriptions, particularly of the dragons (“She’s beautiful—such a lovely blue, rich and deep, but not too dark. Just right, I’d say”), may capture children’s imaginations. Although most of the book is suitable for readers aged 9 to 12, the emotional abuse Lucy receives from her father is quite intense, and the last few chapters veer into YA territory, with scenes that feature serious violence and other mature themes.
A fun and engaging, if slightly wobbly, story of a girl, her dragon and their search for their power.