A slave girl who doesn’t even have a name rescues a dragon from imminent death. She finds herself tasked with protecting a stone and going on a journey with the dragon to the ocean.
Title: Dragonkeeper / El guardián de los dragones (español)
Series: Dragonkeeper; book 1
Author: Carol Wilkinson
ISBN: 9781742032450 Language: English
ISBN: 9788466628181 Language: español / Spanish
Themes: history, adventure, identity
What’s it about?
It begins in a remote palace in China with a young slave girl. She doesn’t know who she is and hates her lowly existence. Things suddenly change for her when she meet Long Danzi, the last wild dragon, and unwittingly escapes from her life in the palace and enters into the big world. Long Danzi is focused on making it to the ocean with a purple stone but they face many perils along the way and the girl wonders if her life will ever be the same.
The mystery surrounding the protagonist is what hooked me in the first place. I kept reading to find out who she was and what would happen to her. She is a likeable character who really grows in confidence during this novel. Long Danzi provides the wisdom and charm, and Hua provides the much needed humour to keep, what is at times a dark story, light. The glossary at the back of the book is a useful addition to any teacher as well. Some might say that the China focus is a little in the background, it probably is but for me it worked well as it made me want to go and find out more about China’s history.
I am not fond of the covers that the book was published in after the original run. I have the earlier release which, in my opinion, had a much more attractive cover which was more likely to lure young readers. Some of the chapters (chapter 3 instantly comes to mind) are very long and there are some passages of description which also seem to go on and on and on….you get the picture.
I first picked up this book because the cover (shown) appealed to me. I’m not one that usually goes for fantasy type books but there was something rather intriguing about this one. At the start of the novel the slave girl doesn’t even have a name – she is literally a nobody and treated so very poorly – it is only because the dragon, Long Danzi can read that she discovers her name.
There is a lot of personal growth in this story from the perspective of the slave girl. She is a quick learner and while reliant on the dragon for a large portion of the story she begins to find her feet and herself. In comparison the dragon comes across as rather obnoxious at times but it suits the character well.
What appeals to me about using this in the classroom is that is a story that both male and female students can enjoy. I remember reading it to a grade 2 class and loving Hua’s antics. It seems that children find the characters easy to relate to.
From a history perspective this was my first novel that entered the territory of Ancient China – and is far from being the last. I appreciate the way the author has woven enough history of people, places, and events without allowing it to bog down the story (chapter 3 would be the one exception to this. With Australian teachers looking to incorporate more Asian studies into their teaching this book hits a unique balance between reading, writing, geography, and history activities that can be devised from it.
I highly recommend this one also for advanced readers who are looking for a challenge without the content being too overwhelming.
Edit: 2017 update – it appears as though the book series is about to be transformed into an animated series. More information at Variety