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Dragonswood Hardcover – January 5, 2012
"Children of Blood and Bone"
Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut. Pre-order today
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The Dragonswood is off-limits, but Tess, who sees visions in firelight, is inexorably drawn there. Wrongly accused as witches, she and two friends escape into the forbidden heart of Wilde Island. There, Tess meets an intriguing huntsman named Garth and discovers she is destined to be more than a blacksmith’s daughter. In a nod to Robin Hood, the island’s rightful heir is off fighting in the Crusades, while a regent is doing his best to take over the throne. Humans, fairies, and dragons coexist in the lush setting (first introduced in Dragon’s Keep, 2007), which is so well drawn it practically serves as another character. As Franny Billingsley did in Chime (2011), Carey uses gorgeous, lyrical prose to illustrate a world of authentic period detail combined with fantastical elements. Although the supporting characters, especially the dragons, are well drawn, a first-person point of view keeps the focus squarely on Tess and her journey. This novel, a cross between fantasy and historical fiction, also has a touch of romance and will likely appeal to fans of many genres. Grades 8-12. --Charli Osborne
"Painful, cathartic and cautiously hopeful; a fairy tale for those who have given up on believing in them, but still yearn for happily ever after." — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"A perfectly crafted combination of history, mythology, and fantasy...The political intrigue, mythology of Merlin, and romances that bloom are all uncovered with precise timing and will have readers racing toward the end and then going back to savor the events more slowly." — School Library Journal (starred review)
Top customer reviews
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This book started on a very somber note. You have domestic violence, children dying, people being burned, witch hunts, people being drowned, lions and tigers and bears, oh my. Ok, no animals, but still, this was a pretty heavy beginning. Luckily, it did get easier to bear along the way, but it doesn’t negate the fact that the whole atmosphere of the book was quite dark and gloomy. Despite this, however, I really enjoyed it!
Of course, there were some cons and aspects that weren’t as fully developed or were lacking. For example, there was no real main villain. There were several characters with questionable morals and ones in the gray area, but no one was really full black or at least no one who was directly introduced and wasn’t playing behind the scenes. I was full-gear ready to hate the witch huntress, but that was messed up as well to a degree, so there wasn’t anyone to “boooo!” over.
Something that annoyed me a lot, but it wasn’t a direct con, was the fact that Tess was forced to rat out the names of her friends during her quite detailed and horrible torture in the hands of the witch hunters. It wasn’t the most “noble” thing to do, far from it, but the attitude of her friends, Garth and Tess herself left me quite frustrated. They all blamed and made her feel even worse about herself. Come one! She was tortured, I’d like to see them come down from their high horse and think on what they would have done, the same I bet. It was an unfortunate situation, but trying to shed bad light on Tess’s character based on that was lame, I admired her more for that.
While the romance was slightly weak and the ending too neatly wrapped, I didn’t really mind in the least because these minor faults were masterfully hidden by the storytelling and world-building, the latter being superb. The world created was vivid, realistic and detailed. I also loved the note it ended on, which simply felt very conclusive and happy yet with a small possibility for more if there was a need.
I’m not really a fan of historical YA, fairy and dragon tropes, but for some reason here they worked and it was exciting to read about, I was completely sucked into the story. The topics were effortlessly interwoven and the result was a wonderful fantasy world with an exciting plot.
I thought Tess was a great heroine, she had spine and sensitivity both. She was thrown from one bad situation to worse and despite everything still remained honest, kind and brave. I liked that she wasn’t perfect visually, it made her character shine, although it’s a shame that almost no one appreciated that or even noticed. I couldn’t help but compare her to her friend Poppy who was also nice and all, but came across naïve and vain BUT, everyone loved Poppy because she was so beautiful and special apparently.
Garth we couldn’t really know much about except for what Tess saw, heard or believed. He was a good guy in a difficult position, but I felt I didn’t really get to know him as a character. There weren’t many opportunities for that and neither he or the romance were the highlight of the book (although the romance was one of the key factors in the general plot as it turned out).
I don’t even know why I took on this book because the theme and tropes aren’t my thing at all, but I’m really glad I did, because this is a well written book with top-notch fantasy elements and development.
Other reviews said the beginning of the book was very sad, but it didn't move me at all. You have to actually care about a character before their sad life can effectively move you, unless you are an incredibly skilled writer, which this author is not.
I suppose that you might enjoy this book if you want to read about a normal girl who isn't exceptionally courageous or interesting, maybe a faceless form you can pour yourself in to for some vague fantasy living.
If you do want to heroine who is smart, interesting, and kicks butt, try Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder.
The Bad (Spoilers):
Tess is able to rescue her friends, rescue Meg's man from prison, rescue Meg's kid, find Garth in a tower in a guarded castle, follow Garth undetected, escape being drowned, befriend dragons, convince the with hunter lady to come with her, outsmart fairies etc. All without incident. She never failed in any of these things. I just wish there had been more conflict in these endeavors -- any hiccup at all would have been appreciated. Also, I was so surprised Tess was able forgive the woman who tried to kill her and murdered countless other young women. I don't feel like that's something you can forgive someone for, especially the distrusting abused girl that Tess is. Also: What was her fire sight for? Her fey power seemed pretty useless which was disappointing.
Overall it was an interesting and entertaining read, but nothing special.