Dragonfell, by Sarah Prineas

I racked up enough Barnes and Nobel credit card rewards points to get my $25 gift card reward this month, and it was with great anticipatory pleasure that I visited my local store yesterday.  And it was also with great anticipatory pleasure that I came home with Dragonfell, by Sarah Prineas (middle grade, HarperCollins, March 2019), as I'm a committed fan of hers!  It did not disappoint.

Rafi has always been odd.  He has a strange, fierce look to him, and hair like flame.  He can't be burned,doesn't feel cold, and can see in the dark.  And he likes to go by himself to the top of the fell that gives his village its name--Dragonfell.  Once it was a lair of a dragon, who hoarded china with blue floral decorations. Rafi's differences have started arousing suspicion in his community, and that is exacerbated when two strangers arrive from the city where an coal-powered industrial revolution is taking hold, and seek to take him away with them.

When he realizes the strangers are a threat, the spark inside Rafi turns to flame....making it clear that he truly is different, and potentially dangerous.  He's forced to leave home, and the only way he can find out more about why the strangers want him is to find dragons.  But they are much fewer than they used to be, and quite possibly dangerous predators...

Then he joins forces with Maud, a girl determined to be a dragon scientist and find out all there is to know about them.  Though they become great, loyal friends, each keeps secrets from the other, though Rafi himself doesn't know the secret at the heart of his strangeness (the reader can guess pretty early on!). The two of them make a formidable team, formidable enough to stop the greedy, power-hungry man who's behind the gradual disappearance of the dragons.

This is one I'll enjoy more on re-reading it, when I can savor the lovely details about all the odd things individual dragons hoard, and Maud's curious mind, and such like.  On this first reading, I was caught up in the tension of it all--exploitive industrialization vs the natural wonder of dragons does not make me a calm and happy reader!  But I will indeed be rereading it--the friendship between Maud and Rafi, founded on mutual respect and trust, with their strengths complimenting each other beautifully, was great reading, and the dragons are lovely!  There are welcome touches of humor, too, which I have come to expect in Sarah Prineas' books.

Though the two kids are on a quest, it's a not a high-fantasy adventure (no swords!).  Instead, the quest is a mystery that needs to be solved, with the help of books, sneaking around places they have no business being, and talking to all the dragons they can find.  So this is a good one for kids who dream of fantasy worlds, but don't want violent action.

nb- though reliance on coal and the exploitation of others and of the natural world (the poor extinct dragon flies...) are clearly marked as bad things, and the works of peoples' hands are marked as good things, this isn't an anti-technology book--there's a hope at the end that a clean energy solution can be found :)


  1. This looks like a must-read for me. Great cover! (I think I've guessed what Rafi's secret is already ... but if I'm right that just makes me happier!)(Is it related to what Ursula K. Leguin did with dragons??)

    1. distantly....She did such huge things, after all!


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