The Dragonet Prophecy (the first book of the Wings of Fire), by Tui Sutherland (Scholastic 2012), would have gotten extremely high marks for its kid appeal, and indeed, if I had to recommend one book on our list of 151 to a random fourth grade kid, it would have been this one.
Of all the books that didn't make it onto our final list, this is the one I regret most.
The Lost Heir, is now out in the world, and has been out in my son's fourth grade classroom since he took my review copy to share. The list was long, and the readers still waiting in line are restless--the girl who presently has it has misplaced it....although at this point they can all just go to the book store and buy it, so its not quite as tense as it was back in December. So in a nutshell--yes, the kidlit appeal of this series is still going strong.
Each book in the series is told from the point of view of one of five young dragons, taken as eggs to a secret hiding place and raised with the assumption that they will be the Dragonets of Prophecy, who will bring peace to the warring dragon factions. In this book, sea-dragon Tsunami is reunited with her mother, Queen Coral...but though Tsunami does her best to see things through rose-colored spectacles (and indeed, her mother is very glad to have her back), all is not, in fact, rose petals and happiness. For starters, Tsunami's dragonet companions are imprisoned, and her loyalties are torn, and this is just one small part of the whole business of warring dragon factions that Tsunami can't pretend doesn't exist.
And then Tsunami finds herself facing a dark mystery--someone, or something, has been killing Queen Coral's daughters. Tsunami herself was saved by being kidnapped while still in her egg...and unless she can figure out what's happening, her unhatched baby sister will be the next victim of the mysterious killer.
So yes, there are dragon deaths, and political intrigues, and injustices and machinations that must be faced. Tsunami has a hard time with the facing part of it--she wants her life to have a story book happy ending, and she wants as well to be a clear, decisive leader for whom everything works out just the way she wants it too, but that's not what happens. She must learn hard lessons.
There's not as much violence as there was in the first book, but dragons do die, and Queen Coral, though a loving mother with many fine qualities, is not above torturing and executing dragons who fail her. Tsunami is busy trying not to think to critically of her mother, so readers are left to form their own opinions--which, in my case, boiled down to "girl, get your friends together and get the heck out of there."
Which, happily, is what ends up happening. Because it's the friendships of the dragonets that give the series its heart, and with the tight focus on Tsunami in this book, that got a tad overshadowed. Next up is Glory's story--the secrets of the Rainwings revealed! (The Hidden Kingdom, coming June 3)
(disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher)