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“Trust what you have chosen. There is a reason. Sometimes it has chosen you,” Flaxfield. —Dragonborn
by Toby Forward
Sam lived a quiet life as a wizard’s apprentice. Sam’s only friend was a dragon named Starback. When Sam’s master dies, other wizards come to help bury the man. When the group argues over Sam’s fate, he runs. Sam is unsure of where to go, but he knows he wants to finish his education in magic.
Sam and Starback set off on a journey. They know Sam must avoid the wizards, but there are hidden threats as well. There is someone who wants Sam’s power, and she’ll use deceit and magic to capture Sam. Will Sam be able to find his path without being trapped in her snare?
A book about a boy and a dragon should be amazing, but Dragonborn lacks action. For most of the story, the dragon is off trying to protect Sam, but he isn’t an integral part of the plot. As Sam travels he meets some interesting people and learns about himself, but the story often lacks suspense.
Dragonborn was written for readers as young as eight, but the plot is difficult to follow. The beginning of the story goes back and forth between Sam’s stories and the apprentice’s notebook, which gives information about Sam’s world. Although the transitions between these two are clear, Sam’s story is more complicated because there are flashbacks that may be confusing for some readers. The point of view of the story changes between characters, which adds to the confusing nature of the story. There are so many characters introduced in the beginning chapters that it is difficult to keep track of all of them.
One aspect that may upset younger readers are the scenes that deal with death. The story begins with death, and the final preparations of the body are performed. Later in the story, Sam stumbles into a house where a man has just died and Sam must perform the burial rites, including taking the man to the Finished World. Although the book does not address what happens after one dies, the story may lead to questions about the afterlife.
Although the story has plenty of magic—both good and bad—the story does not explain how spells are made. The apprentice’s notebook reads, “Now, whenever it is worked, it does more than was meant, and it lives a life of its own. So never, never make magic just to make life easier, or to do something quicker. Always keep your magic for something that matters.”
- A girl attending wizard school often gets into trouble. One day she loses her temper and floods the classroom. The teacher is unable to stop the flood. “The other pupils were thrashing about, trying to stay above the surface as the water filled the room. They made magic lifejackets and dinghies, they flailed about the swell. . . Just as they were about to lose the battle and drown, Tamrin released the spell.”
- Ash has her creature kill a prisoner. “Bakkmann hurled itself at the dazed prisoner and stabbed into his heart, once, twice, then started to suck and bite noisily at the body.”
- When Sam performs a burial ritual and opens the door to the Finished World, Ash tries to pull Sam into the Finished World. “Sam could sense that she was using the wild magic of the mines to keep hold of him.”
- Ash reads a note on a moth, then kills it. She “held the moth over the flame, watching its wings scorch then flame for a moment before turning to ash. The fat, black body bubbled, dripped, and dissolved.”
- Ash creates a spell. “The boy was on fire. Flames flowed over him. His hair was a fiery torch, his finger ends, candles. He rolled over and over in his frenzy to put the flames out. Nothing made any difference. . . Smedge shrieked in pain. Then, as though it had never been, the fire disappeared.” Later in the story, Ash again uses a spell to set Smedge on fire, so he feels pain but is unharmed.
- Ash has a “clacking creature” that listens to her orders. One of the creatures, “pounced on Khazib, and jabbed a long, sharp tongue into his shoulder, drawing blood. Khazib screamed in pain and surprise. . . Khazib looked at the blood flowing from his wound. He panted with pain.”
- A wizard causes beetles to attack Sam. “The huge beetle dived and flew straight into Sam’s face. The others followed, swarming all over him. Into his ears, his nose. . . he could feel them probing with their sharp legs. . . He was drowning in beetles, being eaten alive by them.” In order to save Sam, a dragon kills the wizard. “Its jaws seized on Caleb’s head and jerked it to one side. The boy heard bones snap. The dragon shook Caleb as a terrier shakes a rat. Caleb’s head lolled to the left, one side of his face burned away.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- The weavers “do not weave when twilight comes, but sit and drink beer and tell stories.”
- While traveling with a roffle, Sam and the roffle sit down to eat. “There was lemonade for Sam and beer for the roffle as well.”
- After a character is taken to the Finished World, the crowd has food and drink. The men and women “stood in small knots of friendship with mugs of beer and cider, beakers of wine.”
- The story revolves around wizards who cast spells.
- Ash is a creature whose limbs fall off and grow back, her eyes bleed, and she eats beetles. She picks up a beetle and “put it to her lips without thinking. She crunched it, sucked the soft pulp from inside, licked it clean, then dropped the empty husk into the remains of the fire.”
- When Ash attempts to escape her prison, she goes to the doorway. “Her foot snapped off at the ankle and hung in the air outside. . . Her arms had gone through as far as the elbows, then stopped. Her weight sagged. She fell to her knees and her forearms snapped off. . .”
- Sam looks at a book and concentrates on the letters when “green and blue smoke hovered for a second and then contracted, gathered together over the plate; and, in a moment, it formed itself into a tiny Green and Blue Dragon.”
- Sam looks toward the stars for messages. “Sam tried to read them. They whispered to him, many voices, many words, many thoughts. He could not make out what they were saying.”
- Hungry and dehydrated, Sam leaves his body. “. . . He was high above the crowd, looking down at them. He was a dragon again. Hunger gone, thirst forgotten, he soared above it all, rejoicing in the splendor of the air . . . Thinking of himself send him back not himself. . .”
- One of the characters has a connection to a wolf. “When I need to see with the wolf’s eyes, I disappear into the wolf. I stop being Axestone until it’s over.”
- Sam discovers that he is a dragon and a boy. “Being a dragon and a boy at the same time was like learning to swim . . . but soon enough he knew the difference between one and the other.”
- When a person dies, someone must prepare the body. Then, someone must accompany the body and open the door to the Finished World. When the door is opened, the person moves into the Finished World.