Wednesday, July 18, 2007

What would I have done if it had sucked?

Janet Lee Carey sent me Dragon’s Keep. She sent it to me signed. With a pretty bow. And there was chocolate. Yummy chocolate. Really yummy chocolate (seriously, Janet, where did you get that stuff?). But what if, oh jeeze, what if I didn’t like it? What vestige of journalistic integrity can possibly remain? How do I declaim in this public forum an author I wish to succeed? A step further, how do I proclaim without seeming to pander? I totally ate the chocolate.

I can’t. I just have to be honest, and you, dear reader, must make up your mind to whether or not you think I’ve been bought.

So it is with mixed relief I tell you that Janet Lee Carey’s Dragon’s Keep had me from its opening passage. The premise was fresh and fascinating, even when building off the standard of Arthorian legend. Not that King Arthur had anything to do with the story, save the use of his name.

6oo years ago Merlin made a prophecy. He said that the twenty-first generation would give Wilde Island a queen that would unite two races and restore the exiled nobility to their rightful stature. Rosalind is to be that queen. The one thing that holds her back is a hideous flaw that links her to the island's eternal scourge - dragons who think humans are a great delicacy. She must protect her secret or risk losing her kingdom, and her family's name.

No pressure or anything.

Rosalind's voice was clear, unique and realistic. She suffered a great deal but always, always came out stronger and wiser for it.

Janet Lee Carey propelled me to the encyclopedia for this one. She set it during the time of Empress Matilda, of whom I had never heard. Did you know that Matilda was the first woman ruler of England? Before Jane Gray (9 days a queen), Mary & Elizabeth? This was FASCINATING to me. And I promptly regurgitated everything I learned to all the science majors in the room as I easily beat them at Dr. Mario. I think it freaked them out a little. But hey, I was on vacation. Anyway, I think that setting a fantasy (or sci-fi) with some connection to the real world of the past or present helps the audience buy into the story. Carey already had the familiarity quotient by bringing the know elements of Arthur and Merlin, but she gave it depth by giving us Matilda and Henry - even if those characters never appear on stage, they remain part of that world.

You know what else is awesome about this book? The actual book. The cover beneath the jacket (which I removed because I was traveling and didn’t want to ruin it) is green and textured reminiscent of the very dragon scales that prove the major point of conflict in the story. Go Harcourt. I wish that all good books received such care in production and design. It’s beautiful.

To go beyond the scaly binding, head on over to the Readergirlz Archive where you can explore more about Dragon's Keep, including interviews with the author. Then join in on July's Readergirlz discussion of Goy Crazy by Melissa Schorr.


Little Willow said...

I like that you post nothing but the truth. (Obvious pun but - true!) I liked Dragon's Keep. I like stories with good (or good and bad, or conflicted) dragons. I liked the green binding as well. I love bows.

tanita✿davis said...

I didn't get chocolate, and loved it, so you can rest assured that your journalistic integrity remains... in place. Mostly.

Although now I'm PISSED about not getting the chocolate.


Anonymous said...

Just read Dragon's Keep yesterday, so I *finally* read your review now...

If you found the mentions of Matilda fascinating, read Sharon Kay Penman's When Christ and His Saints Slept. Awesome, awesome book. Penman writes fabulous historical fiction, period, but I have to admit this is my favorite of her books that I've read. And, bonus, the characters are so memorable that the history will stick with you. (Which, okay, meant I knew what wasn't going to happen in Dragon's Keep, but I was still caught up in the story anyway, which is a credit to Carey's storytelling.) I first read Penman when I was about 15, so I also have to say, recommend When Christ and His Saints Slept to your teens who enjoyed Dragon's Keep, too--at least, those who won't be intimidated by its size.