Friday, August 28, 2009

The Fire Within

Title: The Fire Within

Series: Dragons #1
(Also find book two's review here.)

Author: Chris D’Lacey

Genre: Mid-grade Magical Realism

Excerpt from “Welcome to Wayward Crescent,” Chapter 1 of The Fire Within:

“Well, here we are,” Mrs. Pennykettle said, pausing by the door of the room she had for rent. She clasped her hands together and smiled. “Officially, it’s our dining room, but we always eat in the kitchen these days.”

The young man beside her nodded politely and patiently adjusted his shoulder bag. “Lovely. Erm, shall we take a look…?”

“It used to be our junk room, really,” said a voice.

Mrs. Pennykettle clucked like a hen.

The visitor turned. A young girl was lolling in the kitchen doorway. She was dressed in jeans and a sloppy top and had wet grass sticking to the heels of her sneakers. “All our junk’s in the attic now.”

“And where have
you been?” Mrs. Pennykettle said.

“In the garden,” said the girl, “looking for Conker.”

“Conkers?” the young man queried. “Aren’t you a week or two early for them?”

ers,” said the girl, “er.”

The visitor furrowed his brow.

A college student rents a room off-campus and gets mixed up with clay dragons and squirrelly adventures.

The Craft: The Fire Within has a smooth, flowing style that causes the eye to fly across the words and sweeps the reader into the story. It is almost simplistic—but it works. It perfectly suits this playful tale of clay dragons and misadventures with squirrels. So while the story is not extremely plot intensive, the quirky humor and oddball characters more than make up for any deficits in that may or may not exist in that area.

The Content: A secularly published novel, The Fire Within has an interesting mix of content issues, especially being in the subgenre of magical realism (real world plus oft-unexplained magical elements.) For while there is not anything that I would consider extremely worrisome in this first book, this story hints at concerns becoming graver in books to come.

The main concern I saw in this book was an leaning toward extreme environmentalism in it’s theme. Perhaps not the most worrisome topic in the world, but it needs to be noted, especially for readers with leanings in that direction.

Also the magical realism needs to be approached with caution. While this aspect is handled pretty well in this first book (especially with the non-human aspects hinted at), a couple things surround the fire tear and the internal connections with the dragons sets off warning bells in my mind and warrant caution.

Other minor notes: A little minor language (like geez), and some deception rewarded, though officially frowned upon.

Summary: While The Fire Within is an imaginative and delightful tale, some caution and a fair amount of discernment should be applied. I highly recommend parents read the story alongside their kids, or at least discuss it at length, if a child wishes to read the story.

Rating: Craft—5, Content—2, Overall—2.7 out of 5 stars.

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