Review by Christopher G. Nuttall
Firebolt (The Dragonian Series I)
by Adrienne Woods
Firebolt was recommended to me by someone who read Schooled In Magic, which is why I was reluctant to pick it up. There are, I should admit, some surface similarities between the two books, but thankfully both the plot and background are very different.
The series takes place in a world – it may be a hidden country, rather than an alternate world – called Paegeia, where humans and semi-dragons co-exist. Dragons are capable of shifting between human- and dragon-form, to the point where a dragon isn’t always recognisable as such when in human form (and can even have human children). Each dragon is supposed to have a human rider, who bonds with them and helps keep them stable. The fact that one particular dragon – a very powerful dragon – has no rider is a major plot point. Dragon children (teenagers, really) go to a school where they study with humans who can become riders (or pay the fees). Ideally, they will bond with their riders before they grow too old to be easily controlled.
The heroine of the story is a fifteen-year-old girl, Elena Watkins, who has spent most of her life following her (dragon) father as he moves from place to place, trying to avoid an unseen threat. She has no idea her father is a dragon until they are attacked, leaving him dead and her badly injured. When she recovers, she finds herself at the school – and expected to take lessons, which she finds very hard, while she tries to find her place in her new world. As you might have expected, Elena finds herself drawn into a plot against the entire kingdom …
Overall, I have mixed feelings about the book. While Harry Potter can be read by all ages and The Worst Witch is clearly for children, Firebolt is very definitely for teens. There is a considerable focus on teenage romance, which is about as hideously cringe-worthy as you might expect. (Most teenage romance novels are cringe-worthy because most teenage romance is cringe-worthy.) At the same time, there are more adult elements that are hinted at, even if they’re not brought into focus.
There are some elements that are quite neat, in my opinion. The world itself is a jumbled mess that is actually quite fascinating, although we don’t learn as much about it as I would have liked. (An appendix discussing the various types of dragon would have been very helpful.) Elena does not become an instant expect in anything, but has to work to learn how to do everything from learning to fight – with swords and axes – to cast spells. She’s quite intuitive, as a person, but I would unhesitatingly describe her as ‘book dumb.’ But then, this is actually quite realistic – very few people in our world learn Latin in school, which means she effectively needs to learn a new language right from the start.
On the other hand, there are problems. Elena is pretty much a stereotypical teenager, although one who has been though a nasty rough patch (and is trapped in another world, to boot.) She spends a great deal of time whining, crying, admiring boys and generally acting like an idiot – and some of her so-called friends aren’t much better. She gets feted for solving a number of riddles, but none of them are particularly complex – and one was lifted directly from The Hobbit. I’m even surprised she made the connection towards the end of the book … because, given what she knew, plenty of other people should have been able to make it too. Really, I don’t find her a very likable person, which is something of a weakness. Perhaps she gets better.
A more meta-point is that Firebolt is not a complete story in itself, unlike Harry Potter or .,. well, Schooled in Magic. I’m not generally fond of starter-books that don’t leave me feeling satisfied at the end, even if there are threads that can be picked up later in the series. I tend to feel short-changed when that happens, particularly if there are more than two further books to come.
Overall, I’m probably not the target audience for this book. But it was a fairly light read for an hour or so.
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