Title: The Land Of Dragor: Book 1 – The Gift Of Charms
Author: Julia Suzuki
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure, Children’s
For this week’s book, I am hugely excited to be giving you my opinion of the first ever review copy I have been given of a novel – The Gift Of Charms, the first novel in The Land Of Dragor series and also the debut novel of Julia Suzuki.
The novel is set in a mystical land called Dragor where dragons continue to exist away from humans. We learn that Dragor is protected by The Fire Which Must Never Go Out which protects the dragons from the humans they fear after they enslaved the dragons many years ago.
At the beginning of the novel a dragon called Kiara has just given birth and is awaiting the hatching of her baby dragon with the Nephan Hudrah, Yula. However, when the egg hatches the Hudrah quickly discerns that it is no ordinary dragon egg as it is multi-coloured so the baby dragon should be taken away – Kiara and Ketu manage to convince her otherwise and they get to keep the baby, who they call Yoshiko.
10 years later, Yoshiko is about to start Fire School where he is to learn crucial dragon skills such as flying and breathing fire. He quickly attracts the attention of a dragon in the Alana clan called Igorr, who starts to bully him due to his initial lack of ability.
After his first day he visits the marketplace with his father where he encounters The Ageless Ones – a twin pair of dragons who are know for being uncommunicative but they give Yoshiko an unusual charm and offer him a strange vision.
In subsequent chapters, Yoshiko is targeted by Igorr for the fact that it was not just his egg that was multi-coloured but he possesses a strange ability to change his colour to any of the dragon clans -from Nephan Red to Alana Purple to Mida Orange.
Yoshiko tries initially to surpress the colour changes but is curious to know why he is different. One day, in trying to hide a colour change from his classmates he flies to Cattlewick Cave, an area strictly forbidden for dragons to go to as an old dragon called Guya lives there. Guya then offers to explain Yoshiko’s colour changes if he completes three impossible tasks. It may just be the case Yoshiko’s colour changes are more than just coincidence…
The Gift Of Charms is, put quite simply, a wondrous introduction to a series which has the potential to become one of the greatest children’s fantasy novels in recent years.
The most appropriate place to start though is probably with some naysayers who may upon first reading compare it to the likes of existing fantasy novels, in particular the Harry Potter series and the Lord Of The Rings trilogy. There are some similarities to both novels – with the school drama in the opening chapters reminiscent of Harry’s adventures at Hogwarts and the Land of Dragor itself can draw comparisons with other “fantasy worlds” such as Middle Earth and Narnia. However, Suzuki has managed to combine the best of both of these novels into something that feels completely new.
Now that that issue is cleared up, let’s continue…..
The Gift Of Charms begins as stated above very much in the vein of a school drama with the 10 year old Yoshiko taking his first steps into Fire School. It is pretty clear the novel is aimed at young children of around Yoshiko’s age from the beginning and many of them will relate to Yoshiko’s trials and tribulations such as his initial frustration at his own lack of ability in some areas and (though hopefully not) the feeling of being bullied by fellow classmates.
This appeal to children can also be felt in the novel’s length. The entire novel is just under 200 pages long so is a very short novel and some of the chapters are only a few pages long, perfect for a young reader not used to long books and also great for parents for bedtime reading sessions.
Therefore, the novel moves at a fast pace with a lot of events occurring (my plot overview above only covers half of the plot line because as you know, I am a bit of a tease who doesn’t like spoiling novels for people who haven’t read them!). Usually a novel that moves at such a fast pace, and especially a fantasy novel, I often do not enjoy as the world seems to be secondary to exciting events. However, Suzuki creates an amazing world in this novel with some fantastically vivid descriptions of the dragons, the clans and Dragor which I can definitely see catching many a young child’s imagination with some of the descriptions being the best I’ve ever read in a children’s fantasy novel.
Also the novel’s themes are extremely positive ones for children with Yoshiko’s initial curiosity and perseverance being admirable and then as he grows and learns to accept himself for who he is which can only be a good thing in a world where children are taught to live up to unrealistic stereotypes.
My only slight criticism (though it isn’t one really as I have said the book is for kids) comes from the novel’s length in that it left me hungry for more so thankfully this is only the beginning of the series.
An amazing debut kicking off what could be the start of an amazing children’s fantasy series.