I had heard about Dragonspell on various lists of recommended dragon stories, and I’ve seen the series around at book stores but for some reason never got around to buying it. I finally did, but it took two tries. On the first, the back cover had major scratches and looked like someone had cut a piece out. I had to look elsewhere because they didn’t have any more copies. At Barnes and Noble No. 2, I finally picked it up, along with another book I’m planning to read for October by the author of Coraline. Dragonspell is a quick read, and honestly I could have done it in about three days (reminder: I read slow) but it ended up taking three weeks due to some personal distractions where I got involved finishing my own book after nearly two years. That blog’s coming soon.

No actual egg thieving from sleeping dragons happens.

There’s the book. It’s in the trade paperback format that I love, and as usual is well put together. I’m no font expert, but it does use one I don’t recognize. It also has the narrowest margins I’ve ever seen.

So, no one told me that Donita K. Paul’s work was Christian Fantasy. I’m not opposed to religious themes in books at all, but she does a fine job in hitting you over the head with them, and often characters have questionable actions based around their faith. One of the worst to me was early on. Kale, our protagonist, rescues this dragon who’s been captured and tortured on a daily basis, and when the dragon recovers and kills those who abused her, another of the characters tells Kale the dragon can’t come with them because by killing, it means she’s bad. And bad people don’t belong on their team. Wulder, the God figure, wouldn’t approve. Had this been written in a satirical fashion it would have been easier to swallow, but I honestly feel the actions were genuine. It left a sour taste in my mouth. Kale is also constantly told to trust in Him, and even defeats the antagonist by chanting over and over that she stands with Wulder. Really. Everytime she’s in danger, she simply says that, and she’s spared for a moment. In the climax of the story she has to take no personal responsibility. I’m not sure what moral this is trying to show the target audience of around 4th to 8th graders. The cover says adults can enjoy it too.

Now, I do like Kale. She grew up as a slave, and is strangely okay with this. I guess slavery isn’t too bad in Paul’s world. Once she gets her freedom and discovers a talent she has for finding dragon eggs, she meets others who tell her this is a gift from God and His plan is for her to rescue other eggs from evil clutches. I find irony that she begins as a slave and ends up a servant. She’s naive, but generally good natured and has empathy for others, while also confused and frustrated by everything she’s learning over the course of the story. Everyone acts like she should just know things, when she doesn’t. Some of them, like Leetu Bends, come off rather condescending about it to me. I was actually happy when she got captured early on, and didn’t feel Kale’s need to rescue her, other than just being a nice person. Other characters lack development, so outside of Kale, it’s pretty flat in that department. Many seem no more than figures to preach about trusting in and serving God.

The little dragons were adorable though, for what screen time they got. Gymn in particular made me “aww” aplenty. It’s a shame that for most of the story they’re no more than ornaments. We don’t even get words from them until near the end. Maybe they couldn’t talk yet? But either way, it’s done through a device I’ve mentioned time and time again that I could do without: telepathy. Or “mind speech” as tends to be the current euphemism for it. Apparently there’s a higher form of dragon that can actually speak out loud, but we don’t experience that in this novel. We’ll see them in future ones I assume.

The kimens were cute too, who are two foot tall people who can radiate colorful light. They’re one of seven other mostly humanoid races created by Wulder. There are also seven evil versions created by our “Satan” figure.  Another of the good races, the doneel, look like little fuzzy near-terrier creatures. One of them, Dar, tags along with Kale for most of the journey, and boy do I loathe him. He’s the one who had an attitude about the above dragon situation. His only redeeming quality is that he can play music.

We also have Paladin, who’s our Jesus figure, and who can make evil dragons run away by saying he works for God. That’s all it takes. Kale thinks he’s good looking and eventually serves him after she’s heard enough that that’s what she’s supposed to do. My question now, does Paladin get a great self sacrifice later on, like Aslan in the Narnia books? Speaking of those, they handled Christian themes much better I think because the story and characters came first, with the religious elements being along for the ride. Here, the reader feels a bit beaten over the head by them. There were times when I felt like Paul was using the story as an excuse to talk about her beliefs while sacrificing plot.

There is a plot. Kale’s off to find that dragon egg before an evil wizard gets it. Half the time though, things seem skimmed over, especially action scenes. Kale spends much of her time running or being talked down to, and there are sections where it feels like more needed to be there but it got cut. Is that on the editor? Who knows.

I do believe the author is a good person and has good intentions, but the intense preachiness of the story draws away from the positives and left me wanting to read something else. She certainly has imagination with all that she has created, and thankfully there’s a glossary in the back for all of the types of races, creatures, foods, and other things in the world that are new to us.

I think now it’s time to read a sequel to one of the books I enjoyed over the past year.