Talons of Power is the latest book in the second subseries about the young dragons from all the different dragon kings who attend a draconic boarding school under Jade Mountain. The previous book in this series ended with the release of legendary evil dragon Darkstalker from his magical imprisonment, and then Tui T. Sutherland took us back in time for Darkstalker's origin story. If you have read Darkstalker, you will not be at all surprised that Talons of Power is full of scary, dark magic because Darkstalker is an evil, mind-controlling genius who craves absolute power.
The hero of this installment is the young Seawing, Turtle, who has up till now been something of a secondary character. This was fine with him--he does not see himself as a hero, he does not want to be a hero, and he has no confidence that he might ever be able to think and do the right things at the right time the way a hero might. He's actually very powerful--he's an animus dragon, like Darkstalker, and can do magic of his own. But Turtle isn't interested in power.
When Darkstalker shows up, using his magic right and left on all the other young dragons, Turtle uses his magic almost instinctively in such a way that he becomes basically the only hope of foiling him. But his path is not clear to him, and he spends much of the book sort of in a lonely fumble of figuring out what to do, trailing along as Darkstalker sets out to rebuild the Kingdom of the Nightwings. It's lonely for Turtle because his friends aren't protected against Darkstalker; only bright, vivid, impulsive Kinkajou, who doesn't join the story till around the middle of it, still has an unclouded mind (and though there are reasons why Turtle just can be using his magic right and left, I wish he'd been able to keep a few more friends from being brainwashed.. I kept getting distracted by thoughts of what magic I would do in Turtle's place....).
So it's a somewhat uncheerful book, without the group camaraderie that made the previous books such a joy to read. And the "holdout against tyrannical oppression and mental manipulation" story is kind of close to home for some of us right now, so not cheerful reading, though timely. As the story reaches its end (which does not equal conclusion....), things get a bit more lively, and throughout, Turtle is certainly a sympathetic character.
And now we wait for the next book--will Turtle's sister Anemone, who has magic of her own, step up to the plate? Will Kinkajou become a hero in her own right? and will Quibli (one of my favorite young dragons) whose keen, super-smart mind seems to be resistant to magic and who stayed at Jade Mountain, save the day?