Why am I reading the 6th book in a series without having read the previous 5? And why am I reading a book with dragons to boot? Because the Cybil round one judges deemed this worked well as a standalone and was good enough to be a finalist. I sort of agree that this can standalone, but I felt I’d have got a lot more out of it if I had the background and context. There was a lot of dragonlore that I just didn’t know about, and while it mostly did not inhibit my understanding of the novel and became clearer in the end, I did find it a little confusing.
This upper elementary/young middle grade fantasy is set at a new school for dragons designed to encourage and allow the six different tribes of dragons of Pyhrria to get to know each other better; the intention is to quell the dragons’ suspicions of each other and to stop the tribes fighting.
Moonwatcher, one of the despised and feared Nightwings, is in the first intake of students, and she has the unusual ability of being able to read minds, and also has visions. Instructed by her mother to hide these skills for her own protection, Moon timidly starts to get to know other dragons, mostly those in her ‘winglet’ – a group of 6 dragons one from each tribe. However, she overhears a plot to kill some dragons, and also hears the voice of a 2000-year old ‘animus’ dragon who is trapped. Using her skills and with her new friends, Moon tries to solve the mystery and save the school.
The plot is really well-constructed and paced, it all moves along at a good lick throughout. The intersection of the start of the new school (and the reasons for it) with the central mystery, and the side story of the ancient dragon is all very satisfying. Though the writing rarely moves above workmanlike, it serves the plot and makes the book accessible for younger readers.
The world of the dragons is richly layered, as you might expect from a 6th entry in a series. There was a very helpful key at the beginning with the different dragon tribes, and I referred back to that quite a lot. The different tribes have different personalities, though I did find all but the main characters pretty interchangeable.
However, the three core characters, Moon and her two new buddies Kinkajou and Qibli, are an attractive group who pull on their different strengths to help each other. Moon is a bit whiny to start with, but I’m sure many readers will be able to relate to her fear of a new social situation and will pull for her when she starts to establish herself there. It is, however, pretty easy to forget that they’re dragons as they have very human traits.
Assuming the other books are as engaging as this one, I’d certainly be happy to recommend the whole series to a young fantasy lover.