The Hidden Kingdom (Wings of Fire, Book 3, Scholastic, May 2013) by Tui T. Sutherland. My ten year old and his classmates are huge fans of this series, and after my son devoured this one, it disappeared into his extensive reading circle*, and made many children happy**. Fortunately I remembered before the end of school that I needed it back, and so it returned to me, and I finally got to read it. And I enjoyed it very much too.
So the basic premise is that the various clans of dragons are at war, and there's a prophecy that five dragonets will bring peace. The Dragonets of Destiny, as they are known, were taken as eggs to a secret cave, and raised by The Talons of Peace...until they escaped, to try to find their destiny (and their families) for themselves.
Each book focuses on a different young dragon, and The Hidden Kingdom is Glory's book. Glory has had a harder life than the others-- She's a RainWing, thought to be lazy and worthless by the other dragon clans, and she isn't actually in the prophecy. There were problems with the SkyWing egg that the prophecy had called for, and her egg was a last minute substitute. So all her life she's been bullied by the Talons of Peace, and told she's worthless, so she feels angry and defensive. But now she and the other four have reached the kingdom of the rain dragons, and she'll see for herself just what her people really are like....
But though the life of the RainWings is peaceful and rather lovely, it has a darker side. RainWings have been disappearing, and no one is doing anything about it. And so the Dragonets find themselves on a desperate rescue mission that takes them into an adventure just as dark and dangerous as anything that's ever happened to them.
So yes, there's some violence, but it's not something the characters take lightly. Glory has used her RainWing venom on other dragons to save herself and her friends....something she finds no RainWing would do. But once again, she's faced with no alternative...
New characters are introduced, and the existing characters continue to work out their dynamics, and new and fascinating world-building takes place (raising interesting questions---is a society of peaceful inaction acceptable?). It's a fine, page-turning addition to the series, and if you haven't offered these books to your handy fourth grader (boy or girl), do so tout suite! And read them yourself because if your fourth grader is like mine, he or she will want to talk about them with you, and also because you might, like me, find them fun light reading for your own pleasure.
The Hidden Kingdom ends on a cliffhanger, and both of us want to be the first to read The Dark Secret (coming in October). I will probably be forced to model gracious unselfishness. Sigh.
Here are my reivews of the first two books: The Dragonet Prophecy, and The Lost Heir. The Hidden Kingdom is my personal favorite so far.
* I am so jealous of this aspect of my son's childhood. There are about twelve truly avid readers of fantasy in his class, boys and girls, and they recommend and share and play imaginary book based games like crazy. They even call and text each other to talk about books.
**I feel compelled to let Scholastic know that their book sales have not been undercut--the kids have all been buying their own copies at the school book fair.
disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher.