The Dragon of Trelian – A Review

Business. Today is the last day to vote in the May CSFF Top Tour Blogger Award run-off poll.

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This week the Children’s Book Blog Tour is featuring The Dragon of Trelian (Candlewick Press), a middle grade fantasy by Michelle Knudsen.

The Story. The young mage’s apprentice, Calen, becomes friends with Princess Meglynne and together they uncover a plot to assassinate Meg’s soon-to-be-married sister, and thus to thwart the planned-for peace her union intends to usher in.

With the help of the dragon Meg is now linked to and Calen’s own surprisingly strong magic, they face a greater evil than they imagined. But will anyone else believe them? Can they discover tangible proof in time to warn the king of the threat to his daughter and his realm?

Strengths. I love fantasy, and this is the kind I find most enjoyable. It’s a clear good-versus-evil struggle, with a traitor and a surreptitious plot, a secret and unsuspecting power, an “underdog” and an impossible task. The stakes are high, and as the story unfolds they become even higher.

The characters are sympathetic, even likable. They seem appropriately motivated and realistic. I understand their decisions and cheer for them to succeed.

The story was easy to read and as I got into the heart of it, the pages flew by.

Weaknesses. Even good stories have them. While nothing I’ll mention here spoiled the story, I do think these things keep The Dragon of Trelian from being great. First, I thought Calen and Meg did not have distinct voices—and they should have. Yes, they were soul mates, if you will, but he was a boy, a mage’s apprentice, who didn’t know anything about his family. She was a girl, a princess, from a loving family. These facts alone should have given them distinctive voices.

Second, I thought many of the plot points were predictable. I didn’t find them boring because I could see them coming, however, and a younger reader who hasn’t been exposed to a number of fantasies may not even catch on ahead of time.

Finally, I don’t see any clear themes, other than do what’s right. Meg and Calen want to stop the assassination, want to make it possible for peace to replace the feud-like battle raging between two kingdoms. I’m not sure how either character grew. Meg did as a result of her connection to the dragon, but that was more a fusing of her personality with his power, so the only change was her giving in and finally letting the dragon in.

Recommendation. The Dragon of Trelian is a fine middle grade fantasy. For Christians looking for magic-free fantasy, this is not their book. There’s a Tarot Card reading (under another name), and the connection between Meg and the dragon reminds me of spirit channeling. And of course Calen is studying to be a mage. If a reader can look at these elements as make-believe, then the story is fun and enjoyable, but not powerful and purposeful.

If a reader is looking for a little escape fantasy, then this is a the kind of book for that purpose.

Take some time to see what other bloggers on the tour think about The Dragon of Trelian:

Published in: on June 2, 2009 at 11:58 am  Comments (6)  
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