Dragonhaven – by Robin McKinley

DragonhavenThe most striking thing initially about this book is its narrative voice: it’s told in the rambling and slangy voice of 18-year-old Jake Mendoza, replete with run-on sentences, pop culture references, sarcasm, and profanity. It’s not a very refined voice, but it’s convincing and engaging. If Jake’s voice is occasionally a bit long-winded and introspective in comparison to the average male, in all other ways it’s quite convincing. And often quite funny too.

Robin McKinley is a master at creating intricate and believable fantasy worlds. Jake lives in a slightly different parallel universe to ours. In some ways it’s quite recognizable: Jake plays computer games, quotes Lord of the Rings, and describes his reactions to eating at McDonalds. The differences are glaringly obvious: dragons exist and have played a part in human history, and there’s life on Mars. The fantasy elements are interwoven seamlessly with reality, and the world is a fascinating one.
I was surprised and intrigued at some of the themes I found in this book. Picking up a book about a teenage boy interacting with dragons, I was not expecting to find one of the most true-to-life descriptions of caring for an infant that I’ve ever read. Yet there it was: the exhaustion, the stifling helplessness of being so utterly depended upon. Granted, it was in the context of a young man caring for an orphaned dragon, but it was quite compelling.

All in all, it was an enjoyable read. Not one of Robin McKinley’s best works–if you’re expecting another Beauty or Spindle’s End with their flowing and elegant prose, you’ll likely be disappointed–but an engaging story nonetheless.

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