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“Just take one breath at a time. It’s okay to feel scared,” Seth. –Dragon Captives
The Unwanteds Quests #1
by Lisa McMann
Identical twins Fifer and Thisbe have amazing, uncontrollable magical abilities. They want to learn more about magic, but their brother Alex is the head mage of Artimé and he doesn’t think the girls are ready. Alex knows the girls are more gifted than anyone else, including himself. In order to keep the girls from learning any magical spells, Alex orders everyone in Artimé not to do magic in front of Fifer and Thisbe.
On the Day of Remembrance, an ice blue dragon named Hux shows up with terrible news. His siblings have been enslaved by the notoriously evil Revinir, the ruler of the dragon land. In order to survive, Hux needs someone to return to the dragon’s land to make the dragons new wings. Without Alex’s help, Hux’s sibling will die. Although Alex feels bad for Hux, Alex refuses to leave Artimé.
When Thisbe and Fifer discover Hux’s need, they decide to help the dragons themselves. The girls want to show Alex they are ready to be taught how to use their magic. Thisbe, Fifer, and their friend Seth sneak away to rescue the dragons. Will their untrained abilities be enough to save the dragons—and themselves—when they come face-to-face with Revinir?
Readers will quickly connect to Thisbe, Fifer, and Seth, who want to prove that they can do something good. When the children take off on their journey, they don’t expect to find a hostile land where they will be imprisoned. Despite being in a strange new land, the three spend most of their time trapped in a prison. Because of their plight, each of the characters discover the importance of perseverance.
Dragon Captives is set ten years after the great battle that left Thisbe and Fifer without parents, which will cause confusion for those who haven’t read The Unwanteds Series. The first part of Dragon Captives has many of the same characters as The Unwanteds Series. Even though the story tries to recount the important events from the previous series, readers will have an extremely tough time learning about the magical world and keeping track of the many characters that were developed in The Unwanteds Series.
Even though readers may struggle with the beginning of the book, readers will not regret staying with the story. Once the children make it to the dragon’s land, the story shows interesting cultural differences between the two worlds. Magical spells, chase scenes, and betrayal all come together to make Dragon Captives a fast-paced, exciting story. The action-packed scenes are not gory; however, some readers may be upset by the idea of humans being sold to the highest bidder. Dragon Captives does not have a feel good ending. Instead, the story ends with a scary cliffhanger that will have readers reaching for the next book in the series, Dragon Ghost.
- A magical creature in the shape of a scorpion chases Thisbe and Fifer. The girls try to escape by climbing a tree, but “the scorpion slid to a stop below them. It gripped the tree with one of its pinchers. Then it snapped the trunk in two, sending the top portion with the girls in it falling through the air and crashing to the jungle floor.” Thisbe’s ankle is caught under the tree, and the “scorpion, moving steadily towards her with its poisonous tail raised, knocked her flat with its pincher. Then it pinned both girls to the ground with its spindly front legs.” A magical Panther appears, and the frightened Thisbe uses a magic spell. “Sparks flew from the girl’s fingertips and slammed into Panther’s flank. The creature’s scream stopped abruptly. With a loud crack and a horrible thud, the black stone beast hit the ground. Slit completely in two.” The girls escape and someone is able to fix the Panther. The scene is described over five pages.
- Thisbe has strong, uncontrollable magic. When she was two years old, she killed someone—“an actual human.” “She’s also nearly killed others in her younger years, including Alex, with almost effortless magic that was beyond her control.”
- Fifer and Thisbe go into a town when a man grabs them. “Thisbe whirled around in surprise, she felt a strong calloused hand reaching over her mouth, then a scratchy cloth placed over her nose that had a sickly sweet smell. She tried to scream. . . She gasped for breath, the horrible sweetness from the cloth permeating her nose and throat, and traveling to her brain. She felt a strange fuzziness creep in and take over her. . .” She passes out and wakes up a captive.
- A snake tries to bite a boy named Dev. “Thisbe pointed at it (the snake). ‘Boom!’ she cried. As Dev twisted and spun around, trying to get away, the snake’s head froze in midair. For a split second it hung there. Everyone held their breath. And then the snake exploded into dozens of pieces that went flying far and wide.”
- When Thisbe, Fifer, Seth, and the dragon Hux get to the castle, they are taken prisoner. “The soldiers forced the children to one side, taking their supplies for the wings and throwing them to the ground. Then they whipped poor Hux until he backed into the empty stall and they continued whipping him even though he was doing exactly what they told him to do.”
- Thisbe yells at a guard, and “immediately the soldier pushed Thisbe against the wall. He pulled a dagger from his belt and pressed the point to Thisbe’s chest.” Seth and Fifer try to help, but “the other soldier grabbed Fifer and Seth and pulled them back while the two holding Thisbe dragged her to the ramp and began to ascend it.” Thisbe is taken deeper into the prison and locked in a cell.
- As the soldiers were forcing Thisbe to leave her friends, Thisbe “flicked her fingers the best she could, hoping something else would happen. Fiery sparks flew out of them, hitting the soldiers in the face. . . the head soldier held her, kicking and screaming. Next to her, Seth landed a well-placed kick and managed to break loose from his captor. . . He pulled out a few scatterclips and sent them flying. They snagged one soldier, dragging him backward and stacking another behind the first, and pinned them to the wall.” In the end, Seth and Fifer are separated from Thisbe.
- Seth tries to look for Thisbe, but a soldier “stuck out his leg, tripping the boy. Seth went sprawling hands first and landed on his stomach. The head soldier grabbed him by the back of his vest and brought him to his feet, then pulled his dagger and held the point to Seth’s neck.”
- While trying to escape, one of the dragons “torched anyone who got in his way.” When the dragons got close to the door, “the dragons roared and dove for the exit, dodging spears and swords, spewing fire from their mouths with reckless abandon, caring only about their freedom now. . .”
- Simber and Seth try to find Thisbe, but soldiers stop them. “A valiant soldier stood fast in front of Simber, holding a spear pointed at the cheetah’s eye. Simber ducked and plowed into him. The soldier and his spear flew up in the air and landed hard in the path of dust and rubble Simber left behind him. One by one Simber clobbered all the men and women who stood in his way.”
- Seth uses the glass spell. “This time a sheet of glass appeared between him and the soldiers, cutting them off. They slammed into it. The last thing Seth saw was four faces pressing against it before he turned and vaulted onto Simber’s back once more.
- When Simba and his friends were trying to escape the prison, “soldiers charged, but Simber batted at them with his wings or butted them with his head and didn’t slow down. Before long, he was trampling the ones who wouldn’t get out of the way. As soon as the Artiméans came to the entryway, Simber spread his wings wide, knocking more soldiers down, and began flapping.”
- When Simber and his friends were running from the guards, someone began lowering the gate. One of the stakes “caught the collar of Thatcher’s shirt. Thatcher was violently yanked off Simber’s back and thrown to the ground under the portcullis. . . The sharp iron points were about to run him through. He screamed and rolled away, his shirt ripping down the back.” Thatcher is able to escape unharmed.
- Thisbe and Fifer were tied up and taken to the market to be sold. During the ride, “their wrists were tied down.” When they arrive at the market, the soldiers “shackled the girls to two wooden posts.”
- Simber tries to save Thisbe and Fifer, but he didn’t notice the glass barrier. “Before anyone could warn him, Simber smashed right through the invisible glass barrier that Thisbe had cast in front of Fifer. The girls screamed. Shards of glass flew everywhere. . . Fifer’s face, at first joyous at seeing Simber coming toward them, turned to shock at the impact, and then horror afterwards as she glanced down at her body. Bright red bloodstains spread over her clothing. And then, without a word, she slumped unconscious, only her shackles keeping her from falling face-first to the stage.” Fifer is wounded and Thisbe is kidnapped.
Drugs and Alcohol
- Crud is used six times. Seth tells a dragon, “go up the ramp and torch the crud out of any soldiers who come this way.”
- Thisbe says someone is “kind of a jerk.”
- Artemé is a magical island that has “creations carved from stone or molded from clay and brought to life with strong magic.”
- People can travel through a large glass tube. When Thisbe and Fifer press the button, “the girls’ world went dark for a second or two. When it became light again, they were looking upon a completely different landscape. Indeed, they were on a completely different island, far from home—it would take several days’ journey by ship to get here.”
- One of the characters is an octogaor, “who had an alligator head and an octopus body.”
- When Fifer lets out a whoop, glass breaks. Fifer can also make glass disappear and reappear.
- In the past, Artemé’s mage was killed and “Artemé had disappeared because the world couldn’t exist without a head mage running it. Every last one of the living statues and creatures. . . had immediately ceased to be alive.”
- Alex “rarely did magic anymore, other than simple spells like flicking on a highlighter in a dark corner of the Museum of Large or sending a seek spell whenever he couldn’t find his sisters and wanted them to come home. A seek spell merely required him to hold an artistic item created by the person he was seeking.”
- A dragon, Hux, goes to Artemé hoping someone can make him new wings so he can fly again. Later, Thisbe and Fifer sneak in to see Alex turn vines, flowers, and cloth into dragon wings. Alex “closed his eyes and concentrated for several moments, imaging the wing taking flight. He pictured it sparkling in the sun, flowing with ease, as light and free as the petals that adorned it… And finally he spoke a single wood. ‘Live.’ The wings began to move.”
- In Artemé, “a blackboard was like a magical host in the living area of each apartment. Each personality delivered messages, kept an eye on the residence, offered help, guidance, and sometimes attitude, and some even shared gossip from the other blackboards.”
- Thisbe can make invisible hooks. “Thisbe quirked her finger away and pointed at a wall. A spark shot out and supposedly an invisible hook attacked itself to the wall, though neither girl felt like going to feel around for it.”
- In order to get out of a locked cell, Thisbe uses magic to make the bamboo grid come to life. “The bamboo grid began to billow, and suddenly the top right corner of it worked its way out of the stone. It waved this way and that, and with a series of little pops, the grid came loose one bar at time. . .People in the market noticed what was happening. A wave of panic spread through the area. . .the people in the marketplace ran away screaming, and the grid, filled with exuberant magical life, wiggled and tumbled and chased after them.” The girls are able to escape. As they flee, the prison door chases Seth. “A moment later one corner of the bars hooked Seth by his shirt and took him on a ride into the air. Then it slammed him into the ground and dragged him around again in the same manner as it rolled through the square.” Eventually, the girls are able to pull Seth free and “he hit the ground with a sickening thump, his face slamming into the pavement. Luckily some squashed tomatoes kept him from hitting it too hard.”