- Hardcover: 272 pages
- Publisher: Putnam Juvenile; 1st edition (September 20, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0399246754
- ISBN-13: 978-0399246753
- Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (126 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,394,678 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Dragonhaven Hardcover – September 20, 2007
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From School Library Journal
Grade 7 Up—A novel set in an alternate contemporary world. Viewing dragons as fire-breathing, non-sentient animals with gigantic appetites for livestock, humans have hunted them for centuries, and now they survive only in a few wilderness havens. Jake Mendoza has grown up at one such haven, the Smokehill National Park in the American West, and has inherited his scientist parents' commitment to the park's secret inhabitants. When he rescues an orphaned baby dragon, he sets in motion a cascade of events that may eventually save these top predators from extinction. Readers will find the book to be less about the joys of the human-dragon bond and more about the challenges of raising an infant and communicating in a vastly different language. As an exhausted Jake explains, he is the first human in history to find out that a marsupial baby dragon out of its mother's pouch still expects a round-the-clock source of food, warmth, and company for over a year. Also, their telepathic communication gives Jake and his fellow Smokehill residents debilitating head-aches, and no one on either side is ever entirely sure they've got the message right. Once readers get through Jake's overdone teenage diction in the first few chapters, they will be engaged by McKinley's well-drawn characters and want to root for the Smokehill community's fight to save the ultimate endangered species.—Beth Wright, Fletcher Free Library, Burlington, VT
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In her customary way McKinley evokes a complete, detailed alternate reality. -- Horn Book
This engrossing fantasy is suspenseful and highly detailed...a truly wonderful read. -- KLIATT
Top Customer Reviews
I did eventually grow to like it (McKinley is a wonderful writer, after all, even if this isn't her usual style), but the depth and beauty of the story seems to peek through the clutter of language, rather than channel directly to the reader through the written word. Jake narrates like somebody who is talking a mile a minute and can't stop to catch his breath, let alone go back through to edit and clarify.
The story falls into the popular urban fantasy genre - a recognizable world of today that is subtly skewed by the addition of some fantastical element, in this case the existence of dragons. Jake lives on the only dragon preserve in America, at an institute in the park dedicated to the study of dragons. One day, seemingly by chance, he finds a dragon dying in the woods - a mother dragon killed by a poacher just as she was giving birth. All but one of her baby dragons are dead, as is the man who killed her. Jake, still trying to cope with the loss of his own mother, looks into the dragon's eye as she is dying and is so moved by what he sees there that he decides to do what he can to save the last of the dragon's litter.
The rest of the book is about raising a baby dragon. It's about the bureaucratic mess caused at the park by the death of the poacher, and the practical and philosophical consequences of Jake's determination to save the baby dragon. It's the kind of story that would be impossibly dull if it weren't so magical, and in this case the breathless pace of the narration counterbalances the steady, grim menace of the government and the long, slow struggle to keep the baby dragon alive. It always feels like a lot is happening, like events are just galloping by, even though there's no real action to speak of.
Things definitely get strange when it comes time for the baby dragon to meet her own kind, but that part of the story is too much fun to spoil.
I really enjoyed Dragonhaven, but it didn't move me the way that some of McKinley's other books have (The Blue Sword, Beauty, Sunshine). I'd give it three and a half stars if I could, and I'm rounding up out of a sense of loyalty.
That voice is missing from this book.
Ms. McKinley, for the first time in her career (as far as I can see), decided to write from the perspective of a teenaged boy. I believe she really struggled to capture the rhythm and honesty of her main character. She adopted a rushed, breathless teenage boy patois scattered with adjectives like "freaking" and "cheezing" that she successfully maintains throughout the ENTIRE book.
Her story, although slow in parts, was beautiful and well-drawn. (That's why I gave the book three stars.) However, my pleasure in the story was corrupted by my hatred of her language. It distracted terribly.
Although I am a devoted McKinley fan, I probably would not have purchased this book if I'd known what I was in for.
One more comment, and this to the publisher of the hardback edition, at this point the only one available. This is quite simply the shoddiest binding I have ever seen on a hardback book. Even paperbacks are generally put together with more care than this was. There is nothing supporting the signatures of the book. I am careful how I handle my books, and my copy literally fell apart in my hands before I had even finished reading it. Shame on Putnam. Respect for the author and reader alike should require better workmanship.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
However--I found myself really disliking this book after a while.Read more