The Dragon Egg Princes, by Ellen Oh

The Dragon Egg Princess, by Ellen Oh, is a magical middle grade fantasy about kids who must save a kingdom and its magic from a greedy usurper to the throne.

It starts with Princess Koko, still a very little girl, disappearing into a magical wood...a tragic loss for her parents that leaves the kingdom of Joson without an heir.  For Jiho Park, the story of the princess seems at first irrelevant.  He's the only son, and oldest child, of a family touched by tragedy--the mother died, and the father, a ranger in the magical Kidahara forest, disappeared into it years ago.  Their uncle and aunt took htem in, and Jiho has worked hard to ease the burden on them, a burden made worse by Jiho's legacy from his father--he nullifies magic.  Because of this, no magical helpfulness is possible on the family farm.

When outsiders arrive from various neighboring kingdoms, part of a new push to bring modernity to Kidhara region (putting a railway through it, and clearing it for industrial development), Jiho's gift, and his own intimate knowledge of the Kidhara and its many magical denizens (many of them , is a gift indeed to the would-be developers.  But though Jiho can help to a certain extent, he's not committed the project, and is pretty certain it is doomed to fail.  The Kidhara is prepared to fight back....

And so Jiho and a group of young people working on the project find themselves lost in Kidhara, with dangers on on sides. Help comes,unexpecdedly, from Princess Koko, who has been living in a magical enclave within hte Kidhara.  But though Jiho and his companions are safe for the moment, they soon learn that there is more to worry about than the planned clearing of the forest, and the usurption of the throne by Kiko's greedy uncle.  An ancient danger is awakening, and only Kiko can stand against it.  But in order to do so, she must embrace who she really is--not just a girl, but a dragon.

There are other plot threads happening, that add further to an exciting story....and the monsters, magic, and ancient evil to be thwarted by by kids is just the sort of excitement that young fans of middle grade fantasy will love!  Joson is a place inspired by Korean culture and mythology, and the neighboring countries have real world echos as well (which makes it extra fun to meet characters from these countries...).

The part of the book that I think will resonate most powerful for young readers is the internal journey Koko must take to accepting that she is the last of the dragons (all the others will killed in the first battle against the ancient evil).  She loves her human parents, and doesn't want to not be their human daughter anymore, and though she realizes intellectually that become a dragon as well is necessary, it's hard for her to actually do it.  Yes, the dragons were beautiful and powerful, but it's not how she sees herself.  I don't think it's too much of a psychological stretch to see this as a metaphor for adolescence, and a pretty on point one at that, and it's this bit of emotional tension that lifted the book from fun adventure to memorable story in my mind.

There's more I liked too; Jiho has his own character arc that's also a good one, the bandits I mention above also have an interesting plot line, the mix of 19th and even 20th century technology from other lands with the magic of Joson was cool, and I'm also all in favor of greedy exploitation of the magical world being thwarted by magic (although this bit of the plot fell by the wayside, once the ancient evil started re-emerging).  So all in all, another strong addition to this spring's remarkably excellent crop of middle grade fantasy!


  1. It's not Spirit Hunters but I'm glad to read this is another great middle grade from Oh ;)

  2. Sounds enticing! I like your description of the internal development. That's important for me, if not for my son (he just wants action). This might please both of us.


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