Darkstalker, by Tui T. Sutherland

Tui T. Sutherland's Wings of Fire books are deservedly wildly popular with their target middle grade audience (and me).  The books are set in a world full of warring clans of dragons, each clan with its own physiological and cultural differences.  The first series is about young dragons working to bring peace to their war torn world.  The second series introduces a new group of dragons, who meet at a dragon boarding school for intercultural understanding, and then go off and have adventures.  Though this story line (now at three books) is going to continue, Tui T. Sutherland found herself taking a break from it to go way back in time and write the story of Darkstalker, an enigmatic, incredibly powerful, and trapped dragon who the young boarding school dragonets come into contact with...and then have to decide if they want to free him from his horrible fate.

So Darkstalker, the first book of the Wings of Fire Legends series (Scholastic, June 28, 2016) can be read as a standalone book, the story of three young dragons caught in trap of magic.  Fathom is a young Seawing dragon who has the animus power of magic that turned his grandfather into a homicidal maniac ( a very appealing new character).  Clearsight is a Darkwing with an extraordinary prophetic gift.  And Darkstalker is the child of on an animus Icewing prince, now exiled, and a Darkwing, and he has all the gifts of magic possible, making him the most powerful dragon ever.  When he transfers his animus powers to an enchanted scroll, he avoids the trap of insanity that goes with that magic, and now there are no limits to what he can accomplish.  Except, perhaps, for Clearsight's prophecies and her love for him, and his for her.  But will that be enough to keep Darkstalker from being corrupted by all the power at his disposal, and keep him from using it to get the revenge he wants on those who have wronged him?

When we meet Darkstalker in Moon Rising, it's not at all clear if he is good or evil, or in-between...and this mystery adds tension to the book and its sequels.  So you shouldn't read Darkstalker first on its own, because then you will have a very clear idea of just what sort of dragon he is....and it isn't pretty.  Although if  you do read this one as your introduction to Wings of Fire, you might have hope that there will be a happy ending, fans of the series know already that that didn't work out.  There were good reasons why he ended up imprisoned.  In fact, one of the things he does is so very horrible that there doesn't seem to be much chance of redemption for him, and it's so horrible that sensitive readers will not want that image in their heads at all (forcing another dragon to eat himself alive).   The Wings of Fire books don't shy away from violence, but this is the most extreme example.

That being said, fans of the books will enjoy this one too (and already have, judging by the long string of five star reviews on Amazon)--the dragons are all well-characterized, and the experience is as immersive as ever.  Except that for the first time I was a tad bothered by a bit of the world building--there were some problems of scale, because if the dragons are so big that they keep humans (aka scavengers) as small pets in cages, why are they growing human-scale plants in window boxes?  But that will probably not trouble the many young fans at all.

And now I can continue to look forward to the next book in the main series, knowing that things are going to be very tense indeed....

Side note--the Wings of Fire website has lots of fun things to do, and a friendly fan community, and now origami has been added to the mix, which I had hoped my boys and I would try out in time for this review, but it was not to be....


  1. As my teen daughter likes to say, I may LITERALLY cry. Is Winglets only available as an e book? I've got book 8 and 9 of the main series on order for fall, but had missed this. I try to keep my students happy, but these are like Warriors books with dragons. Personally painful! But will order. Thanks for alerting me... Please tell me there are no dragons wenches (ala Jacques), and I may survive!

    1. This a real honest a goodness hardcover...and there are no dragon wenches! Your kids will want it.

  2. Oooh: an evil character origin story! (So he was definitely evil, then, huh? Guess I don't have to read the rest of the Wings of Fire books now!)

    1. Yeah, it takes the interesting ambiguity away. But I guess he maybe still could be redeemed.....


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