Monday, March 30, 2009

Dragonhaven by Robin McKinley

I simply loved this book.

It's a riveting account based on the premise of dragons as an endangered species in the modern world - everything feels scientific, accurate and real. The story focuses to a micro-level on the story of Jake, who finds an infant dragon next to its dying mother and risks everything to raise her ... when no one knows anything about how dragons grow up.

One of the best tidbits of dragon origins is that "real" dragons are Australian in origin ... and they have pouches like marsurpials, used for similar function. The astonishing bit is this works.

Dragonhaven proves that you can break the rules of writing and get away with it if you're talented enough. The first thirty pages are, fair warning, pure info-dump ... and yet it's so engrossing and fascinating that you don't notice. Similarly, there is a lot of summary throughout the book: there has to be, given the massive amounts of time and the gradual changes that occur during it. Yet this only begins to wear on the reader (or at least, this reader) close to two hundred pages into the book.

It isn't perfect: there are scenes that are I wished had been more illustrated and less summarized. But the narrator's voice is strong and compelling, and the through-line that it's a written account of "real" events works perfectly. Jake's voice is distinct; it also "sounds" like something an (albiet very intelligent) young man would write, rather than the work of a trained author.

The suspension of disbelief is a remarkable component of the book. By the end, I was buying things that would seem ridiculous if presented at the opening ... and it all seemed like a logical progression.

Anyhow - highly recommended.

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