In this fantasy novel, a young dragon fails an important test but secretly tags along on a mission, only to be captured by humans.
In Avonoa, all young dragons undergo testing in the Krusible, where they must remain silent from sunup to sundown, no matter how the adult dragons provoke them. For young Dak, holding his tongue is a particular challenge; most dragons pass by their second attempt, but Dak has just failed for the fourth time. He has one last chance to test again—in 15 moons, while practicing with dragons who enjoy tormenting him. When Dak’s friends are sent on an intriguing mission to a dragon community in the desert, Dak decides to follow them secretly and throw in his lot with the new group. The mission comes under violent attack, however, and while Dak is able to rescue one friend, others die and one goes missing. Searching for her, Dak is captured by humans; he then faces the very real test of remaining silent (thus hiding dragon intelligence) while being tortured and potentially killed. Fairies, centaurs, banshees, and a prophecy about the one dragon who can unite dragons and humans all play a part. In her debut novel, Collotzi writes a well-paced but familiar novel, with many predictable fantasy elements: the quasi-medieval setting; the young hero—subject of a prophecy—who must be tested; the heroic journey; supernatural helpers; trials, including rescuing a beautiful young female; and so forth. The beginning section reads like many a YA novel in which upperclassmen bully the younger kids and grown-ups just don’t understand. Some lore is offered, most notably the magic (or “majik”) Five Swords of Avonoa. More interesting is the dragon’s-eye perspective on humanity: Dak “could smell the stink of the fluids draining from human skin; ‘sweat,’ they called it, or so he’d heard. Humans were filthy.” One human, the prince’s half sister Anna, has sympathy for dragons; the story seems to call for rapprochement, but that’s unresolved, perhaps to leave room for sequels.
Dragon lovers are the best audience for this fantasy novel with well-established themes.