Stevens’ (Dragon Lad: The Thirteenth Egg, 2015) middle-grade fantasy sequel finds young Dirk searching for the truth about his past.
In Roman-ruled Britannia, Dirk looks like an average 12-year-old boy, but he actually hatched from a dragon’s egg just seven months ago. Leaving behind his friend, Galinda, on the island of Codhaven, Dirk is searching the lonely, mist-ridden lands for the home of Beldor, High Wizard of the West. At the wizard’s cave, he encounters Ydda, once a “grandmotherly female dragon” and now a human woman, as well as Beldor, who’s merged his consciousness with the dragon Fearclaw’s, with whom he shares a human body. Dirk reveals to them a blue stone talisman that may once have belonged to Gruffen, the Red Dragon of Greenwild. When the boy learns that Gruffen guards a horde of riches, he thinks that acquiring some of it will help him win the acceptance of Galinda’s family. Dirk also thinks that the old dragon may have information about his parents. To outfit this quest, Fearclaw provides the boy with a magical map and a ring that allows him to change between human and dragon forms. As Dirk heads north, he inadvertently loses the ring in the sea while in dragon form. Can he retrieve it and become human again before reaching the town of Isca, where humans may try to kill him? In this rollicking sequel, Stevens combines elements of real-life English history with a shape-shifting–oriented adventure for middle-grade readers. For example, Dirk witnesses the brutality of slavery as Roman soldiers lash Briton workers, but he also teams up with fanciful people such as Leonis, a sea lion who transforms into a human sea captain. Stevens often crafts casually amusing moments, as when Ethelda, the evil woman who raised Dirk, seemingly can’t remember his given name. The protagonist’s dreams and visions frequently guide the plot, which sometimes feels a bit heavy-handed. Still, Stevens’ warm black-and-white illustrations bolster important scenes, as when Dirk meets a mermaid, although truly surreal moments, such as one creature’s transformation from a fly to a dog, remain for audiences to imagine. A joyous ending leaves the cast on a fine footing for the next installment.
A fantasy series installment that effortlessly informs as it entertains.