Monday, May 31, 2010

Review: Voices of Dragons by Carrie Vaughn

Found via: Publisher's Weekly 2/22

As a kid, I loved, loved, loved the movie Pete's Dragon. And yet I don't read a lot of dragon stories. Probably because none will ever be as cool as Eliot. This continues to hold true in Voices of Dragons, but I won't hold that against the book (Eliot leaves quite large footprints to fill).

Movies tell us that after the nukes went off in WWII, Godzilla rose from the depths to go on his roaring rampage of revenge on Tokyo. In Voices of Dragons, replace "Godzilla" with dragons and "Tokyo" with everywhere, and you have the basic origin story of why there are dragons flying over 21st century Montana. When the dragons realized the humanity had progressed far beyond the medieval weaponry of the last time they'd lived together, and that now any battles would be a war of attrition between dragons and airplanes, the dragons made a truce with the humans, agreeing to remain within their designated territories, and never to bother humans again.

Fast forward roughly 60 years to the 21st century and the Montana town that is closest to the border with Dragon. Kay Wyatt is used to spending time on her own, since her father is the town sheriff and her mother works with Border Enforcement, monitoring the border to ensure no dragons (or humans) violate the treaty. On one of Kay's many hiking trips she takes alone, one misstep sends her plummeting into the river that marks the border. When she's rescued, she finds herself on the wrong side of the border, facing a giant dragon - her rescuer. Artegal is essentially just a teenager himself and has a fascination with humans - not as food, but wanting to learn English. Kay is terrified, after a lifetime of stories about the viciousness of dragons, but she and Artegal begin a tentative friendship, she teaching him English while he shares his knowledge of how humans and dragons used to live in harmony.

When the border is breeched again - this time by US military aircraft - tensions begin to mount again. Dragon drills at school increase, as does surveillance on both sides of the border. Both Kay and Artegal are convinced that their friendship and knowledge of ancient dragon lore is all that can stop all-out war from breaking out again.

Usually I don't pay too much attention to what point of view a story is written in - lots of YA books are being written from first person these days, but how much of a difference would it really make if some of those stories switched to third? Voices of Dragons is a third person novel, which makes it stick out a bit in the first place, but for the first time I totally felt it was the wrong perspective for the story. When Kay actually has the chance to fly by riding on Artegal's back, it should be an absolutely thrilling scene and we should be able to almost feel her fear and exhilaration. While all the right descriptions are there, telling this story in third person added a distance that definitely didn't need to be there.

But POV aside, this was a fun adventure story. I loved watching Artegal's and Kay's relationship build from wariness to affection. The ending clearly sets the stage for a sequel, though unlike other genre series we've seen lately, there's no release date set and the book hasn't even been started, so who knows how long we'll have to wait to see where Kay's and Artegal's adventures take them next.
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