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This was such a fun and delightful book! Intriguing settings, great characters, and a fast-paced adventure along with a nice dash of mystery. I’m happy to see that this is clearly labelled as the first book in the series; I want to see what happens next.
First I’ll talk about the setting because this was intriguing. It’s not particularly unusual for reality and magic to be mixed in a story, but it’s significantly less so to have a story set in a fantasy land which has elements of our modern reality. This world feels almost fairy-taleish, with its castles and kings and queens and dragons. But also, there are motorbikes! Seeing so much of the action through the Dragon Girl’s eyes, we don’t really get to know this world very well, so I’m hoping that in the next book we’ll see it in more detail, especially as she’ll be learning about it for the first time too.
When it comes to the characters, I feel like we only get to know the Dragon Girl well. A lot of the story is told through her eyes, and although we also get Leo and Thomas’s point of view it still very much revolves around her. That’s all right though. It’s not a very long book, and I’d much rather get to know one character properly than not know much about anybody. Anyway, what we do get to know of Leo and Thomas is fun and they seem like nice boys.
As for the Dragon Girl herself, I love her. We first meet her in the dragon’s cave, where she’s made a whole life for herself, growing her own food, making clothes, and entertaining herself and learning everything she can by reading the dragon’s jewel-encrusted books and gazing on the world outside using a magic mirror she found in his hoard. I love how thoughtful she is and how she insists on thinking through all her decisions. I adore how she won’t let the boys pressure or pester her into doing something she doesn’t want to.
Actually, I really enjoyed how throughout the story the Dragon Girl always gets to keep her agency. She’s allowed to make her own choices, to say ‘no’ when she wants to. All right, so she spends quite a lot of the book as the prisoner of a gigantic monster. But it feels as though the way she’s created a life for herself which feels good and safe within her prison, has given her the ability to know herself intimately, and that gives her the power to make her own decisions and to be herself, despite everything else that’s going on.
At first I kind of wished the dragon was a more compex villain – for most of the story he’s not even present, but more of a looming menace. On the other hand, it becomes more and more clear as The Dragon Girl goes on that things are far more complicated than the mere monstrousness of a monster. Since this is clearly marked as book one of a series, I wonder whether there will turn out to have been even more complex things going on than we’ve realised yet. I’m looking forward to finding out, anyway!
Overall, I really really enjoyed this book. It’s fun and light and easy to read. There are great characters and a good, pacey story. Oh, and a cool magical system, too; I particularly liked the accidental piece of magic that started the whole story off. I thought that was very well done. I’d recommend The Dragon Girl to anyone who likes traditional fantasy with a modern twist.