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The Dragon's Tooth (Ashtown Burials #1) Hardcover – August 23, 2011
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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."
Top Customer Reviews
I was thoroughly surprised.
Wilson does a superb job creating intelligent interesting characters (especially the protagonist Cyrus), that I really felt acted in a much more realistic (and enjoyable) manner. Of course it wasn't just that Cy acts more grown up than you would expect for a middle grade reader, it's that Wilson obviously treated the reader's intelligence with respect when creating this character, in that he isn't dumbed down, which I find quite a lot of middle grade books do to their characters. Of course not all the characters are quite as interesting as Cyrus, I was a little disappointed with Maxi (a black and white villain), and some of the other supporting characters, but overall I was still impressed with the lineup.
As for the plot itself, that too surprised me. There was much more action than I was expecting, and while some of it seemed to jump about a bit, overall I was very impressed. Wilson also throws in some interesting twists with the Smiths background that I hadn't fully expected, but found quite enjoyable. Not only that but Wilson makes the smart move and doesn't expect the readers to believe the Smiths just learned everything in a short period of time. Yes, it is still fast, but I felt the way Wilson handled it was very apt.
All in all don't let this cover fool you. This is a great middle grade book that will entertain and captivate readers as they get to know the world of the Order and the Smiths.Read more ›
Cyrus Lawrence Smith, a nearly too tall boy of almost thirteen, is absolutely, positively convinced that his life cannot get any worse. Two years ago - well, two years ago Cy's life was perfect. The Smith family - Cyrus, his sister Antigone, his older brother Daniel, and his wonderful, vibrant parents - all lived quite happily on the coast in northern California. That was before everything went horribly, tragically wrong. Cyrus's father died - drowned at sea - and his mother fell into a coma from which she may never awaken. Dan, who used to be laid-back and happily-go-lucky, has had to take on all of the stress and worry of keeping their dwindling family afloat and together. The house in California is long gone, sold to help pay the bills. For the past two years, the three remaining Smiths have lived in the decrepit Archer, a once grand example of the roadside motel slouching by the highway on the outskirts of Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.
So yeah, Cyrus's life has been pretty tough lately, but it was never out and out bizarre before the last 48 hours. It all started when Billy `Bones' Skelton, a walking definition of `crazy old man' as far as Cyrus can tell, called the Archer and demanded a specific room for the night. Any type of paying guest is strange enough, but no one has ever wanted to stay in one particular room.Read more ›
Readability; The book has a lot of action throughout, but it didn't really become interesting to me till the second half. Most of the author's best ideas, and many of the characters, are only introduced or play an important part after the first two hundred pages or so. (3 stars)
Character Development; Very good, however, it took forever for us to meet characters, and many of the most interesting ones we don't get to know very well (of course this is the first in a series). The problem I had was that the characters seemed at least a few years older than they were, and one character I thought was an adult till they said he was twelve! Sometimes the author repeated things about the characters, at other times didn't say enough about what they were thinking or feeling. (3.5 stars)
Suitability; Generally, I think kids should choose what they read, but there were a few scenes in this book that just weren't appropriate. Mild Spoilers; the main character, a twelve-year-old boy, kills one of the bad guys by stabbing him in the neck. Later, children of twelve and thirteen carry guns; one of the older children (sixteen) shoots people in the legs so they can't run (the characters shot are bad guys). There are also some scenes that might be disturbing to certain readers, such as references to immortals wanting to die/kill themselves, a boy who sheds and grows his skin like a snake, and mutated creatures attacked the main characters. (2 stars)
Originality; There were some super awesome inventions in this book!Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I enjoyed the story. I fully agree with others that there's comparisons that can be made with J K Roland's Harry Potter Series and with the Percy Jackson Series. Read morePublished 8 days ago by G. ONeill
Good read. Ending makes you want to continue to the next adventurePublished 27 days ago by V. PURVIANCE
This book started VERY slow, but by the end it was clear why the info was front-loaded and in so much detail. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
This was a fun take on many of the livelier historical characters. The main characters were engaging and I loved the foreshadowing and mysteries. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Amazon Customer
Top notch writing. Plot with all necessary elements for excitement. Character development and relationships add the deep heart element, and setting descriptions bring all the... Read morePublished 12 months ago by AfricaBound