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The Land of Dragor: Book 1: The Gift of Charms (Land of Dragor 1) Paperback – 4 Sep 2014
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"An enjoyable tale told with both tenderness and strength." "Kidsreads.com""
About the Author
Julia Suzuki is the author of The Land of Dragor fantasy adventure series for children.
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Having not read much children's literature for many years I began reading with some trepidation. How was I going to put aside an hour or so, (which should be devoted to other more 'serious' reading) to wade through yet another fantasy story about an imaginary dragon-world?
But, a promise is a promise. I began to read ... By the time in Chapter One, when Yoshiko began his first day at 'Fire School', I was skimming through the narrative to discover what fate would befall the special little colour-changing 'outsider' dragon. I knew that if I could be my once 8 year old child-self again I would already be transported to the weird and wonderful dragon land of Dragor.
I will leave any synopsis and plot outlines of the story to the many other reviewers already posted on Amazon. Suffice to say that as a fellow writer - who has in the past attempted, not too successfully, to pen a children's fantasy - I am full of praise for this new author. What immediately seems to set it apart from other perhaps similar fantasy children's literature is the way the author has turned the typical plot on its head and assumed the default of the imagined dragon-land, so that the human world only pops up someway toward the mid to end of the storyline. Rather a clever device to lure in the reader, I concluded.
Other distinguishing features of 'The Gift of Charms' stem from features such as its narrative; its use of language; its dialogue and its humour.
The narrative sparkles with colour (in the varied implications of that word). Sensory visual awareness of colour pervades the landscape descriptions, which provide the story's background, as well as that of the individual portrayals of each characterful dragon; not only does the story brim with descriptions radiating the vividness of the colour spectrum (including some gorgeous little touches, such as the 'cloud of blue butterflies'), but many of the dragons comes alive through a unique colour association.
I thought the narrative pace of the book was excellent and just suited to the requirements of a 9-12 year old reader. Similarly, the sentence structures are varied in length and tone and are extremely well crafted, so as to speed up, or sometimes slow the movement of the plot. There are some delightful little touches and turns of phrase, each of them serving to draw the child into this fantasy world as they conjure up yet another sparkle of detail apropos one or other of the dragon paraphernalia - 'dragon puffs'; 'fire'flowers'; 'charcoal trees' come to mind.
There are many other complimentary words I could say about this children's fantasy. But, if you are reading this, go and get the book and find out for yourself.
My one proviso in my review - and hence the 4, rather than 5 star - is that when I reached the near end of the climax of the quest, when during the course of his 'journeys' Yoshiko returns to his own land and has to 'deliver' the colours to the seven clans, the narrative seems suddenly to skim to its conclusion; we are suddenly being 'told' rather than 'shown' the action. Given the overall outstanding qualities of this book, this seemed to jar. BUT, in no way does this deter from the charm of the book to a child reader. More than likely he or she will be too involved with finding out what happens to the little dragon at the end to notice!
Whilst it is not my normal genre, I thought it was a delightful tale with charming characters, including the brave Yoshiko, the loyal Elsy, the wise Guya, the bully Igorr and the mysterious Ageless Ones. One of my main enjoyments of this story came from the character development, seeing Yoshiko turn from a unsure young dragon to a hero and understanding how Igorr is belittled and ignored by his own father.
The tale is set in the mythical land of Dragor, a land hidden from the eyes of humans and inhabited by dragons, not the vicious and dangerous creatures of folklore but human-like creatures with intelligence, morals and conscience. Banushed to their own land and wiped from human memory, the dragons are living in peace and safety, however their powers are gradually dwindling that their future is in jeoapardy.
Along comes Yoshiko, born from an unusual rainbow-coloured egg. On starting fire school, young Yoshiko realises he is different from the other dragons and is bullied because of those differences. He learns that differences does not make one dragon better or worse than others, but that all the clans have their own strengths. This helps Yoshiko to become comfortable in his own skin. Yoshiko is helped by Guya to understand the importance of his birth and his destiny to help save the Land of the Dragons. The tale follows Yoshiko's attempts to fit in with his contemporaries and his quest to fulfill his destiny.
I liked that the book sends a strong message to the reader about bullying. The dragon clans are distinguished by the colour of their skin/scales and specific mention is made of the different skills attributable to each clan. The tales instructs the reader to accept and appreciate those differences, rather than ridiculing and bullying someone because of them.
As mentioned above, I don't read a lot of childrens' stories and, as such, I had to keep reminding myself that the depth of background information contained within the book would be significantly less than in adult fiction. However, I think that the fact I wanted to know more is a good indication of how much I enjoyed the story.
My only criticism would be with the editing. There were some grammatical errors which jumped out at me, such as starting a sentence with 'And' and a couple of punctuation oddities. However, I am aware that I am probably being a bit pedantic and as I was reading a review copy, I appreciate that those errors will likely have been rectified in the final version.
Overall, this was a good debut by Julia Suzuki and I would be happy to recommend this book to friends who have children. I look forward to reading more from Ms Suzuki in the near future.
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