Guest Reviewer: James Dashner on The Dragon's Tooth by N.D. Wilson
James Dashner is the New York Times bestselling author of The Maze Runner trilogy and The 13th Reality series.
The Dragon’s Tooth by N. D. Wilson isn’t a run-of-the-mill fantasy book for kids. Original, captivating, funny, and suspenseful, it’s a book that will appeal to all ages. And it’s certainly not run-of-the-mill.
The Smith children (Dan, Antigone, and Cyrus) run the Archer Motel, living on waffles and periodically visiting their comatose mother in the hospital. With their father dead, they are pretty much on their own. Things quickly get exciting when a strange man with bones tattooed all over his body comes to the motel demanding to stay in room 111. He shows twelve-year-old Cyrus a lightning bug encased in glass that has dangerous capabilities. After much mayhem the motel is destroyed in a fire, and Cyrus’s older brother, Dan, goes missing. Cyrus is given some very powerful keys and a shard of a tooth. Antigone and Cyrus travel to Ashtown, where they learn about the Order of Brendan, which has existed for fifteen centuries, and that they’re considered Acolytes, with some learning to do before they advance. As you can see, there’s a lot going on to keep you reading!
One of the elements I really enjoyed about the book is all the cool imagery that Wilson introduces. Quick Water is a substance that, when shared between two people, allows them to see where the other is. It ends up being helpful to Antigone as she searches for her brother. There’s a room with planks hanging from the ceiling to walk on so as to avoid the Whip Spiders. And there’s Patricia, a serpent that turns invisible when she swallows her tail. She helps Cyrus to conceal the special keys he’s been given.
To say this book is action-packed would be an understatement. It starts quickly and keeps a steady pace right to the climax and ending. The story is well-crafted, with vibrant characters and interesting places. I especially appreciated the way Wilson develops the siblings. The brother/ sister relationship is very authentic, and the dialogue believable. I’m really looking forward to the second installment!
A Letter from Author N. D. Wilson
I love books that give me a thirst to step outside and blink in the sun (or blink in the rain), books that make me put on my boots or my shoes or my sandals, that make me want to climb, to dive, to dig, to have staring contests with anthills, to hold crabs or touch sharks or search out even fatter books.
Escapism in fiction can be a beautiful thing. But that’s not the only thing I hope to create. If kids around the world pass through The Dragon’s Tooth and become friends with Cyrus and Antigone Smith and form clubs and sit in circles to role-play with dice and wish they had more interesting lives, then I will have failed. But if they dream of learning to sail, to swim, to fly, if they dream of running faster than they’ve ever run and studying Latin (or Greek or Persian or Creole), if they walk outside and realize that their world is more wonderful, more surprising, more dangerous, and more exciting than anything I could ever create, if they discover that they themselves could become more interesting than any character I could ever shape, then I will have succeeded.
In The Dragon’s Tooth, I season my story with a pirate cook and flight lessons and truly electric lightning bugs and an old motel beside a quiet road in Wisconsin. I add one or two of history’s rogues (and whip spiders and a bull shark named Lilly and a giant snapping turtle named Leon), and then I put it all on a sizzling end-of-summer barbecue and serve it with lemonade.
Taste. Eat. I hope you like. But if you don’t, step outside and look at the sky. Right now, you’re standing on a ball that is hurtling through space at Mach 86. And that ball of fire up there in the blue is slinging us around like we’re on a string. Birds really can fly. And sing. The ocean is real. The platypus is no myth. Caterpillars turn into soup (and yes, that soup turns into butterflies). This is our fantasy world, and it is the world into which I hope my readers escape.
Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, August 8, 2011:
"Wilson (the 100 Cupboards books) launches the Ashtown Burials series with this wildly imaginative and action-packed thrill ride. Cyrus and Antigone Smith . . . must prove their worth to [a] society of adventurers and explorers whose past members have included the likes of Amelia Earhart. Additionally, Cyrus and Antigone battle traitors and subterranean creatures while struggling to keep an ancient artifact away from an immortal madman. Wilson balances these hyperbolic plot elements with measured prose and smart dialogue, while combining pulp sensibilities, cinematic pacing, and fully developed characters readers will gladly follow down the rabbit hole."
Starred Review, Booklist, October 15, 2011:
"Cyrus and Antigone Smith have been living with their brother, Dan, since the mysterious circumstances that caused their father’s death and their mother’s coma. Then Billy Bones appears out of nowhere with a ring of keys and a dragon’s tooth. Within moments of passing them to Cyrus, Billy is killed and Dan is kidnapped by the elusive Dr. Phoenix. The only possibility of rescuing their brother seems to reside in Ashtown with the Order of Brendan. This fast-paced fantasy quickly draws readers in to its alternate reality, where transmortal creatures cannot be defeated with ordinary weapons, and Dr. Phoenix’s experiments on Dan and others are reminiscent of history’s worst realities. Yet, on the positive side, there is the love the Smith family holds for one another, love that requires trust and self-sacrifice. Allusions to mythology and complex character development—not only of several young protagonists but also of Phoenix and the shifty cook, Sterling—make Wilson’s first in a proposed series a gem. In an embattled world, where evil seems insurmountable, a glimmer of hope arises from a tooth."
Starred Review, School Library Journal, November 1, 2011:
"The Order of Brendan is an underground collective of sages, historians, and explorers who've been guarding the world's secrets for millennia. Cyrus and Antigone are plunged headlong into an exciting and dangerous world and pursued by a deadly advisory who will do anything to possess their strange inheritance.This volume marks the birth of an extraordinary new series. Populated with well-crafted characters, peppered with mythological references, and brought to vivid life through Wilson's masterful storytelling, this book is sure to appeal to the adventurous spirit in all who delve into its pages."
The Bulleting of the Center for Children's Books, December 2011:
"A wild adventure that features swarms of deadly, carnivorous spiders, one gigantic snapping turtle, animal/human hybrids, and a double-timing cook—not to mention the occasional cameos by Amelia Earhart and Rasputin. The mythology behind the Order is neatly woven into the action-packed plot, offering a brief reprieve from chases and hunts without slowing the pace. Even at a hefty 400-plus pages, this exhilarating story reads like a breeze, and fans of adventure will have a hard time putting it down."
Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2011:
"A wild fantasy romp through a creatively imagined alternative world. For readers who've reread all of Harry Potter multiple times, this will be just what the doctor ordered."