Friday, December 20, 2013

Dragon's keep by Janet Lee Carey

Princess Rosalind has kept a secret her entire life - she was born with a dragons claw where one of her fingers should be.  Her mother has helped her keep her secret, wearing golden gloves and shaving the talon each week to keep it hidden from prying eyes and whispers of curses.  Her secret is a heavy burden, a burden she can not share because her mother keeps her isolated from the young people her age and refuses to allow her a ladies maid and the close companionship such a maid would bring.  Rosalind is mostly content with her life, but each year she must watch as a dragon swoops down and snatches the towns people one by one - watching friends and neighbours toasted and eating is not pleasant, and watching all the young knights ride to their doom is just as bad.

For years Rosalind has lived with her curse, and the knowledge that she is the princess destined to fulfill a prophecy from the wizard Merlin.  Generations in the past her ancestor was banished from the kingdom and erased from the memory of her people, but Rosalind is the princess destined to return Wilde Island to its rightful place of power.  But nothing goes to plan for Rosalind and her mother, especially when Rosalind finds herself caught up by the dragon and taken to Dragon's Keep - where she learns more about her past, and more about her future.  On Dragon's Keep Rosalind must face some hard truths, and she will learn more about who she is meant to be - one painful lesson at a time.  But will Rosalind learn those lessons in time to save her friends and family on Wilde Island?

I have a soft spot for books with dragons, especially when the dragons are written as intelligent beings rather than mindless savage beasts.  Janet Lee Carey has created a world where dragons are just that - intelligent, emotional, and carrying the stain of a dark history that leaves them with a bitter resentment towards humans.  Rosalind is a fantastic counterpoint to the dragons because she is young, naive, and grows into her own as a woman and a ruler through the trials and tribulations of her journey.  The cast of characters which fill out the story each bring with them their own part of the story, sometimes good and sometimes bad, and it feels like an epic drama played out over the years - which allows for some long term plans to come to fruition.

The language of the story is genuine which means at times it feels a little old fashioned, but that adds to the authenticity of the story.  Dragon's Keep adds an interesting twist to the Merlin and Arthurian legends, introducing a branch of the family and what might have happened hundreds of years into the future for a disgraced daughter.  I loved the blend of action, drama, and mystery - there is an underlying sadness to the story of Rosalind and the desperate measures a mother will take to conceive a child she so desperately wants.  Rosalind grows and blossoms as a woman under the pressure of the events she lives through, and there is a strong coming of age message underneath the drama and fantasy.  This is an older novel now, but it was an enjoyable read and one I enjoyed re-reading several years after it was originally released.

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Reviewed by Brilla

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