Some of my readers who have been stalking me for quite some time and possess excellent memories may recall that I once reviewed a book called Sunshine which had a fabulous premise and, ahem, problematic execution.
Sunshine was written by one Robin McKinley and she is best known for her fairytale retellings, which I am not actually a fan of. Her fairytale retellings, not fairytale retellings in general. In general, I love fairytale retellings. Just not hers.
Am I confusing you?
Anyway. She has written several books that are purely original. Sunshine was one of those… though I detected some similarities to the story Little Daylight by George MacDonald? That could just be me, though.
Dragonhaven is also not based off of a fairytale and, as the title implies, it is about dragons. Sort of.
Let me set this up. A teenage homeschooled boy with a single dad has grown up in this zoo for small species of dragons.
Apparently all the big ones have died or people don’t believe that they ever existed? Either way, this reads like a contemporary and, aside from the komodo- and iguana-like dragons, seems true to real life.
Until he finds Lois.
Yes, her name is Lois.
Don’t argue with me.
Now, I am always intrigued by stories about teenage boys. That sounds a little weird, but hear me out. Heroes are becoming a wee bit scarce these days; Katniss and her friends seem to be taking over the world.
Teenaged male heroes are rare. Jake was a nice change.
First person for a male character was also a new thing for me. It was like climbing inside a teenage boy’s head and that sounds gross, but it was actually kind of cute.
I have four brothers so I know more about guys than the average girl usually does? But guys don’t come right out and say what they’re thinking… that’s what makes them boys, I think. But when he’s the main character in a story that is written in first person, he has to.
I’m more comfortable around guys than I am girls, and always have been. It’s easier for me to understand guys. Oh, I know exactly why girls do what they’re do, I just don’t seem to be able to sympathize. Still, there was a certain novelty to being able to see the world through his eyes.
And he is homeschooled! Wow!
I didn’t know that the rest of the world was aware the homeschooling was a thing. Because it literally never shows up in fiction. Ever. The end.
Okay, so it does occasionally crop up? Like if the character is a missionary who was raised in the jungle or lives in Hawaii or Australia – because they apparently don’t have traditional schools there…
As a fellow homeschooler, it was nice to see homeschooling and the kid portrayed as normal. Ish.
It was also nice to see a single parent show up. Especially a single dad. They exist too and dads can be the best people in the world – I would know – but they tend to get a weirdly bad rap in fiction? Not fair. Sometimes moms walk out or work or die or are horrible. Not to be depressing or anything.
Now can we please talk about Lois.
At first I didn’t care for the name. Why not Elliot or Bud or Toothless of even Smaug – okay, not Smaug – but his reason was cutest perfection.
And Lois is such a sweetie. I cannot get over how much I love how Jake’s relationship with her. She is just a tiny dragon baby when he finds her, but she immediately imprints on him and Jake becomes… a mother. How touching.
My favorite part is how she is a good influence on him and he tries so hard to be a good mommy. Like he stops playing video games because it scares her? Cue the aww’s.
Alas, things go downhill from there.
Essentially, I love the story about Jake raising a dragon and keeping her a secret from everyone else at Dragonhaven. But once Lois grows up and joins the clan or whatever… I lose interest somewhat. And I lose interest even more when the story follows Jake into adulthood and marriage and migraines because apparently communicating telepathically with dragons feels like having rocks in your brain? Right.
And then that epilogue.
The Homosexual Agenda was ridiculously obtrusive and in-your-face. Here’s a lifesaver – if you read this book, skip the epilogue. It is pointless.
One more thing… did you know Robin McKinley is an old lady? Because she is. Which makes her simultaneously the coolest little grandma and the scariest. How does an old lady write about teenagers with something like accuracy? And what sweet little old lady writes about dragons and vampires and… uses intense amounts of profanity?
I half-admire her and half-disapprove. Grannies are for knitting and cookies and cliff-diving, not writing gritty young adult novels.