Thursday, 11 October 2007
‘Dragonhaven’ – Robin McKinley (Penguin Books)
Through some strange coincidence the books on my ‘to read pile’, for this week, all seem to involve dragons in some shape or form. How has a randomly thrown together book pile come up with this anomaly? Who can tell…? It certainly had nothing to do with me trying to come up with a ‘dragon theme’ this week (ahem!)
First up is Robin McKinley’s new novel for young adults. I don’t read a lot of young adult stuff but according to the blurb McKinley has won many awards for her work. Having read ‘Dragonhaven’ I can understand why, in terms of her ideas at least.
Jake Mendoza is a teenager living with his father on a wildlife park that is dedicated to preserving some of the last surviving dragons on Earth. This is a thankless job for all concerned, especially when the government is cutting back on the budget and looking at selling land to developers. Things are about to get much worse though when Jake is out hiking and discovers a dead poacher lying next to a dead dragon. If this wasn’t bad enough, there’s a new-born baby dragon lying there too. A dead poacher is trouble enough but it’s also illegal for a human to care for a baby dragon. With this being a young adult book you can guess what Jake does next…
‘Dragonhaven’ is an entertaining read for the most part. The trials and tribulations of rearing a baby dragon are explored in great detail and the fact that Jake has no idea what he’s doing makes things a little more endearing so you want to read more. It’s not just dragons that are alive; there’s mention of griffins and more than one Loch Ness monster as well. This background information lends substance to Jake’s world but, for reasons I’ll come back to, it ended up making me want to read about other monsters instead of the ones who are supposed to be the focal point of the story. The plot itself is probably a little light on the ground for an older reader but I’d say it pushes the right buttons in terms of its target audience. There’s a cute animal in danger and an angsty teenager with issues; I don’t really need to say much more than that!
Unfortunately, what killed this story for me was the character of Jake himself. This isn’t good as the whole story hinges around him! I never really like reading stories where teenagers exhibit all the typical teenage stereotypes, I just want to give them a clip around the ear and send them to their room! Jake isn’t too bad in this respect but he has one annoying habit that spoilt the book for me. Right at the start Jake tells the reader that he’s not good at telling the story and will go off on a tangent regularly. And he does. This wouldn’t be too bad if he would finish his thread of conversation but sometimes it just tails off into nothing and he’s back to whatever he was talking about in the first place! The end result is a sometimes stilted read where I would sometimes find myself skipping the odd paragraph in a quest to get to the point. This approach may work for the target audience but it didn’t for me.
‘Dragonhaven’ is a great idea that I felt was let down by the inadequacies of it’s main character. Having said that though, any book that can make me want to fly on a dragon can’t be all bad…
Six out of Ten