Dragon Slippers Trilogy // by Jessica Day George

  • Dragon Slippers
  • Dragon Flight
  • Dragon Spear

I’m always a sucker for dragons, and I’ve been meaning to read this middle grade fantasy series for a while.  Overall, these were enjoyable for a one-time read, but they didn’t really end up being books that I loved or that I wanted to add to my permanent collection.

The main reason that these books worked was because the main character, Creel, is likable.  Yes, she’s independent, intelligent, determined, and sticks up for herself, but all in a not-obnoxious way.  Authors frequently seem to have difficulty with writing a strong female character who is also NICE, like yes, you can be both strong AND nice and I’m not sure why this is so difficult to grasp.  At any rate, Creel is both strong and nice and I enjoyed traveling with her throughout the series.

In the beginning, Creel has been orphaned and is living with her uncle and aunt and they are all very poor, so Creel’s aunt decides it will be a great idea if they send Creel to the dragon, and then surely someone will feel obligated to come rescue her, and that someone will of course be rich and handsome and single and he will marry Creel and take her and her entire family to live happily ever after in his castle.  Creel thinks this plan is utter nonsense, but what with one thing and another she ends up in front of a dragon’s cave…

As Creel interacts with the dragons, there are many magical and non-magical shenanigans.  The concept was fun and the overarching plot throughout the three books as to how humans should interact with dragons was done really well.  However, things did get rather serious and intense – almost too much so for the age range that would otherwise be enjoying these books.

In the end, that was part of my issue with the series.  It really felt like George would have been better off if she had made these stories actual YA and developed some of the themes more thoroughly.  Instead, a lot of things felt like they were being glossed over in order to be more suitable for middle grade readers, to the sacrifice of the story.

I really did like these books, and if you are into dragons you will probably enjoy them as well – I just didn’t love them, even though I wanted to.

NB: Dragon Slippers was read #14 for #20BooksofSummer!

Silver in the Blood // by Jessica Day George

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//published 2015//

So the trend in YA these days definitely seems to be towards trilogies.  And, here’s a confession, trilogies are kind of my least favorite thing.  So often it feels like the author is just draaaagggging things out so she can make a buck by putting one story’s worth of story in three books.  Then there’s the opposite – by the end of the trilogy, there is such a rich, amazing world-build that it seems tragic to end after only three books.  (Patricia C. Wrede’s Frontier Magic books immediately leap to mind.  I could read a dozen books set in that world.)

And now we come to Silver in the Blood.  And I got done reading this book and was like…  why isn’t this a trilogy?!  So ironic.  But while I really enjoyed this book, at times it felt like George was jamming a lot of story into one book.  Even a duology would have been nice to allow for some more character development/world building, but instead it frequently felt like the story was hurrying along, which was a shame because the setting is incredibly rich.

It was funny also because I read this on the heels of the Cecelia & Kate books, which were books set in an AU world where magic is real and was about a pair of cousins who had grown up together and were very close and had to write letters to each other… and Silver in the Blood is about a pair of cousins who have grown up together and are very close and have to write letters and are about to discover that magic is quite real.  (It was extra weird just because one of the aunts is Aunt Kate!)

Dacia and Lou have grown up in New York City (in the late 19th century), but our story opens with both of them traveling to visit their family in Romania.  Through a series of circumstances, Dacia is traveling with their Aunt Kate, while Lou is with her parents and brothers along a different route.  The book is told in a mixture of third-person narrative and letters/diary entries from the girls.  I really liked the format (although it never feels necessary to me to use different fonts for different people), and felt like it was a good way to give different perspectives and move the story along.

Things really get interesting when Dacia first meets the matriarch of the family.  Lady Ioana is super creepy.  Up until this point, you can tell that Dacia has been trying to sweep things under the rug as far as “things feel a little weird meeting the ol’ fam,” but Lady Ioana is over-the-top weird, and things get more bizarre from there.

As the reader, it felt like Dacia and Lou were a little slow to see where things were going.  I’m not sure if that’s because they really were a little slow to see where things were going, or (more likely) George was just trying to emphasize how far out of the realm of possibility the concept of shape-shifters would be for two properly brought up Young Ladies of Quality.  But because of that, there were times that the story dragged a bit.

When the big reveal happens, I was frustrated by the sudden complete character swap of Dacia and Lou.  Dacia has always been the headstrong, adventurous one, while Lou was the reserved, quiet one.  But once they realize what is happening with their family, all of a sudden they do a complete role-change.  In some ways, I see what George was trying to accomplish with this, but it also felt kind of unnatural, especially Lou going from 0 to 100mph as far as bossing people around, taking charge, and making major decisions alone.  I could understand Dacia’s horror and fear leading her to be withdrawn and confused for a time, but Lou’s personality shift seemed abrupt and strange to me.

We spend a lot of time building up to a big finale, and then things seemed rushed at the end, which is part of why it felt like this should have been two or three books.  There was a lot of world/character building (which was wasted since the girls completely changed personalities halfway through the story, ah well), and then the action was all smashed into the last few chapters.  While I found the ending mildly satisfying, there still seemed like some loose ends that needed tied up – it was a little too, “Oh yay everything is great now, let’s go on our merry way!” to really feel like a solid conclusion.

In the end, a 3/5 read for me, and recommended for people who enjoy the genre, but there are definitely better ways to jump into YA fantasy if you are just looking for a place to start.