Friday, February 13, 2009
Review: The Last Dragon
The Last Dragon by Silvana De Mari
Reason for reading: it's this month's choice for my library's kids' book club
Book description: "When the last dragon and the last elf break the circle, the past and the future will meet, and the sun of a new summer will shine in the sky. In a world shrouded in darkness and continually lashed by rain, a young elf named Yorsh struggles to survive. His village has been destroyed by the torrential waters, leaving Yorsh suddenly orphaned and alone-the earth's last elf. But soon Yorsh discovers he is part of a powerful prophecy to save the world from the Dark Age that has begun. First, however, the young elf will have to find another orphaned creature-the world's last dragon. Full of great tenderness and humor, this magical journey tells the story of a world plagued by intolerance and wickedness, and the elf and the dragon who will fight for its redemption and bring it back into the light."
First line: "The rain had been falling for days."
My thoughts: Again, I'm not a big fantasy fan and I have to say I sort of struggled through this one - at times it felt like a slog. Yet it was really well-written and once I got over some initial annoyances at the beginning, I did want to find out what happened. I'm beginning to wonder if I have a problem with works in translation (this one is originally Italian) - I often feel like I'm having a hard time getting through them.
This book is s curious mixture of sadness, heroism, humour, and the fantastic. There's lots of absurdity - the county of Daligar has been turned into an impoverished, communist-like state run by a Lord Justice that's straight out of Roald Dahl. There's also a great deal of humour, especially when Yorsh is young ("one born lately") and is trying to make sense of humans (though I actually found this is as irritating as it was funny). The rambling, brooding dragon is hilarious in his laments about his aches and pains and desires for fairy stories. But there's also an incredible amount of love and bravery in the book - the two humans who befriend Yorsh (even though it's forbidden to consort with elves) for a short time to help him fulfill the prophesy end up showing him (and each other) love that will last over a decade and ends up helping to save the world. And formerly irritating Yorsh turns out to be the saviour, with some help from a magnificent dragon.
Verdict: While my non-fantasy self struggled with it a bit, it was a rewarding read. And even though the meeting isn't for a while, some of the book club kids had already read it last month and loved it, so it's an A-plus for young fantasy fans who are good readers.