First Law. That is all Kira (12), her sisters Kahrin and Elsbeth and brother Dane have heard their entire life. Girls can never be educated. Girls can never engage in "boyish" activities. Girls must be married by 13. Kira doesn't want to marry the boy her parents have chosen for her. She wants to be a dragon knight like her father. Using the war as an excuse, Lord Dorcon (her father's enemy) destroys their home. He imprisons Kira's parents, Dane, and Kahrin, and makes capturing Elsbeth and Kira is personal quest. With the help of Onnie and Elsbeth's ability to communicate with animals, the girls are able to escape to Rogue Mountain. While hiding in the mountain, the girls discover and adopt a baby dragon, they name Jinx. With Lord Dorcon hunting the down and Jinx's parents trying to eat them, Rogue Mountain is no safe haven. This time Onnie takes them to Paradon's castle. Paradon, a wizard, reveals the true reason why the King hates girls: fear. The King is trying to forestall the prophecy revealed by one of Paradon's ancestors: One day, a girl with red hair, riding a two-tailed dragon, will destroy the Kingdom. Although Kira doubts the prophecy, she knows she must save her parents, Kahrin, and Dane. Is she really ready to be a dragon knight?
Girl power and ingenuity drive this fast-paced adventure set in the time of dragons. Lots of action will make it hard for readers to put this one down.
Some of the descriptions can be gruesome and dark. One of the first events is Lord Dorcon burning down the family home and farm. There is also some detailed violence. Dane is branded; people are eaten by dragons; and girls are stabbed or starved.
There is no shortage of action in this fantasy adventure. Kira and Elsbeth are wonderful characters. They are well developed and genuine. My only quibble is that Elsbeth seems a bit mature for her age (8). Paradon is as his name suggests - a paradox. Sometimes his magic works, sometimes it does not, and that offer comic relief to what can be a dark story at times. Although this is really Kira's journey, I liked how the author gave Dane a voice. It allowed him to be the "voice in the prison" and set context for things Kira and Elsbeth could not know. All in all this was very enjoyable, and I am going to head to the library in hopes of finding Book Two.
This is the first book in this middle grade adventure series.
This is an adventure story, but there are some interesting themes that can be drawn out: Relationships, problem solving, and trust, to start. Ask readers whether they trust Onnie or Paradon. When Paradon reveals that he is unsure what Onnie is, ask your readers what they think. The descriptions of the dragons (Ferarchie, Jinx, Harmony, Blue) and their gear are quite vivid. Drawing or sketching the dragons could be a great complementary activity.
11 and Up
Borrow, at least. Readers who crave stories with strong characters (and/or dragons) will love Shadow of the Dragon.