Published March 26th 2019 by HarperCollins
Rafi Bywater is unlike anyone else. The people in his village don’t trust him because he spends too much time in an abandoned dragon lair. When a stranger, Mister Flitch, accuses Rafi of being “dragon-touched,” Rafi sets off to discover the truth about dragons—and about himself.
On his journey, Rafi befriends a brilliant scientist, Maud, who has secrets of her own. Together they search for dragons while escaping from a dangerous dragon hunter, engaging in a steam-engine car chase, and figuring out what Mister Flitch really wants with Rafi. And, oh yes, they do find the dragons.
Rafi is used to being considered different and strange by everyone in his village. He spends most of his time alone, bothering no one, high on the Dragonfell, where a dragon who hoarded tea cups used to have its lair. Content to be “strange”, it isn’t until the surprise visit of dragon hunters that Rafi begins to question his unique appearance and gifts. Driven from his home by dangerous enemies, Rafi teams up with an equally secretive girl named Maud, and together they set out to discover the truth of the dragons, and Rafi.
When the dragon spoke again, its voice sounded faded and weary. ‘Is likely that the end of dragons will be end of Rafi, too.’
And I knew it was right.
The imagery and descriptions in this book are spectacular! I could clearly imagine both the settings and characters without being overwhelmed with too much description. The balance between telling the reader what they are seeing and leaving pieces to the imagination is flawless and let the story flow incredibly smoothly without causing me to get hung up on what I was supposed to be seeing. I love how Prineas blended fiction with fact seamlessly, creating fictitious places and mythology in a real time period. Rafi’s age is never stated, and though he’s probably between 11 and 13 years old, the story has enough detail and mystery to be interesting for older readers. The strong theme of family and accepting others for who they are is heartwarming and leaves nothing wanting.
I absolutely love the idea of the battle between myth and machine, and how the old world is evolving into a world of fire and metal and leaving the world of fantasy creatures and coexistence behind. I also love the unique spin on dragon lore: it is entirely different to any story about dragons I’ve ever read and I admire Prineas for being able to come up with new and exciting characteristics on a well-trodden path in fantasy writing.
This book reminded me a lot of “Ember and the Ice Dragons” by Heather Fawcett with its blend of myth and history, and there are similar struggles between the main characters of both stories. I would recommend it for middle grade readers who love dragons and adventure. There is no coarse language or sexual content (no romance to speak of whatsoever), and no violence other than dragon hunting.