Monday, November 27, 2017

REVIEW: The Dragon of the Month Club by Iain Reading

2/5 stars
PG for a frightening fairy tale villain said to cut off children's thumbs.
Recommend to children getting into fantasy.


The Dragon Of The Month Club is the exciting first installment in a new book series that tells the story of Ayana Fall and Tyler Travers, two best friends who stumble across an extraordinarily magical book and soon find themselves enrolled as members of a very special and exclusive club - The Dragon of the Month Club.

On the thirteenth of every month a new dragon conjuring spell is revealed and the two friends attempt to summon the latest Dragon of the Month. The varieties are almost endless: Air Dragons, Paper Dragons, Fog Dragons, Waterfall Dragons, Rock Dragons, Tree Dragons - not to mention special bonus dragons for all the major holidays, including a particularly prickly Holly Dragon for Christmas.

But one day when a conjuring spell somehow goes wrong Ayana and Tyler find themselves unexpectedly drawn into a fantastical world of adventure based on the various books scattered all across Tyler's messy bedroom. Traveling from one book-inspired world to the next with nothing to rely on but their wits and a cast of strange and exotic dragons at their disposal they must try to somehow find their way home again.
(via Goodreads)

The Dragon of the Month Club is a fun adventure story for kids, though older or more particular readers may find it a bit bland. While the premise is interesting, the story is mostly fluff -just cute and sometimes silly fun.

Kids will like exploring the worlds of other books along with Ayana and Tyler, though they will likely not be familiar with most of them. Sherlock Holmes -Tyler's literary hero- is the most recognizable in the company of Frank Herbert's Dune, an underrated and super creepy villain of German fairy tales, and a whole little world springing out of Chinese folklore. The Chinese folklore bit was my favorite, though it was a sluggish point of the book plot-wise.

Reading is creative with the dozens of dragon types he comes up with for Ayana and Tyler to conjure every month. Wooden dragons, paper dragons, fog dragons -with their wits and this variety, Ayana and Tyler can conjure a dragon to help them out of most of the scrapes they find themselves in. Mostly, these were creative solutions to their problems, but occasionally they felt a little contrived. The dragons themselves are adorable -almost as adorable as Tyler's crush on Ayana.

As far as crushes in middle grade fiction go, I'm pretty picky, but Tyler's crush on Ayana is a solid win for me because it mostly takes the form of Tyler recognizing the emotional pain Ayana's in and caring so much for her he just wants her to be whole again. While it does talk about Ayana's anger over her father's leaving, what initially felt like good character depth and the foundation of an arc petered out without offering up any real substance on the matter. I've no doubt Reading plans to pick up this arc in the next book, possibly carrying it over the whole series, but without any attempts at resolving or advancing this depth made the book weak in the character department.

The writing and style can be stiff and inflexible, which makes it a tough read for me. For the amount of plot and story, the book is also a bit dense, which could make it a tricky read for others as well.

This first installment feels more like an introduction to the real story Reading wants to tell, rather than a full story on its own. While Tyler and Ayana make their way through this magical mish-mash world, neither of them are asking the really interesting questions I am: Where did the dragon of the month club book come from in the first place? Who made it? Is there a reason it came to Tyler and Ayana, or was it random? Are there other books and other kids out there with the same book? But Tyler and Ayana take the magic book -and the whole adventure- easily in stride without dwelling on these kinds of questions and it makes the story feel a bit flat and unrealistic.

While Ayana and Tyler get into their fair share of adventures and dodge a few brief antagonists, the apparent villain of the series isn't introduced until the very last page, so I feel a bit robbed by the cliffhanger.

While I'll be skipping the rest of this series, I have no qualms about passing it along to any of my younger niblings, either.

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