Thursday, August 18, 2011
Book Review: Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George (Bloomsbury, 2008)
Recommended for ages 10-14
I am not a princess type of girl (Princess Leia notwithstanding). I'm just not a fan of the saccharine and goo that goes with princess books. Having said that, I noticed that my book list was overwhelmingly boy-focused, having two boys of my own, and I really needed a few girly-type books to spice it up.
I am so glad I picked this book up. No, Creel, the main character, is not a princess. Yes, she is the independent, smart, rags-to-riches character we've often come to expect from our fantasy heroines. But it doesn't feel tired, and there is a humor to her that I truly appreciated.
Orphans Creel and her brother live with their poor aunt and uncle, who have enough children of their own. Creel's aunt decides to leave Creel to the local dragon, in the hope that either a rich noble or prince will save her and marry her - and share the wealth with the rest of the family, or that the dragon will eat her, giving the family one less mouth to feed. Luckily for Creel, Theoradus the Dragon doesn't want to eat anyone; he just wants to be left alone to enjoy his hoard of shoes (each dragon has his or her own preferred hoard).
Creel strikes out for the king's city, Feravel, to find her fortune as a seamstress, taking a pair of slippers given to her by Theoradus. She befriends two more dragons, Shardas and Feniul, along the way. When she arrives at the king's city, she finds work as a seamstress where her embroidery designs gain her notice - as do her shoes. The awful princess Amalia, engaged as a peacekeeping move to crown prince Milun, tries to force Creel to surrender the slippers and ultimately takes Larkin, a seamstress who works with Creel, as her servant in exchange for getting the slippers.
Amalia's desire for the shoes has nothing to do with being fashionable, and her engagement to prince Milun is a sham - her father's kingdom wants to take over the kingdom of Feravel, and the slippers give her the power to control the dragons. Creel must join forces with the king's younger son, Luka, to find a way to break through to the dragons and bring peace to the land.
I enjoyed this book because it was unexpected. The heroine was intelligent, self-sufficient, and funny - a wry sense of humor comes through in many of the characters without feeling forced or contrived. The story is carefully built up without becoming a bore, and Ms. George tightly weaves the various characters, plots, and subplots together to keep her readers on their toes. Just when I thought I had reached the climax of the book, I realized there was more - and I liked it. It is a feel good book that makes you work to get there; intelligently written and does not take its young audience for granted.
Dragon Slippers is the first book in Jessica Day George's Dragon trilogy. I think I may visit with Creel, Prince Luka, and Shardas the dragon again in the future and pick up Dragon Flight and Dragon Spear. Ms. Day George has written other fairy tales with smart heroines, including Princess of the Midnight Ball, which just won the Children' Literature Association of Utah's 2011 Beehive Award and its sequel, Princess of Glass. She keeps in touch with her fans through her blog and her website, which links to more information about the author, her books, and social media. She is also featured on the Mormon Arts wiki.