The Dragon's Eye by Dugald A. Steer, illustrated by Douglas Carrel, 221 pp RL 4
As the first in the 'Ologies juggernaut that has taken over more than a few shelves at the bookstore where I work, Dragonology and The Dragonology Handbook have been on the shelves of my own bookshelf for about four years now with the hopes of piquing the interests of my son, the non-fiction reader, since these books read like reference works, not like novels, although bits of the story of Ernest Drake, dragonologist, poke through the "facts" here and there. While he hasn't read them cover to cover, I did as I was reading The Dragon's Eye: Dragonology Chronicles, Volume One, a novel that tells the story of Dr. Ernest Drake's life mission to study, protect and make societally acceptable dragons.
Volume One tries to cover a lot of ground. In his efforts to make dragons acceptable, Dr Drake runs a summer school for children, children with special connections to the world of dragons, most specifically, children who have parents who are members of the S.A.S.D, the Secret and Ancient Society of Dragonologists. These children learn the Five Fs - fieldwork, foresight, frankness and avoidance of fatalities, the rock-hard foundation upon which all dragonological study must be built. Beatrice and Daniel Cook, ages fourteen and twelve, are Dr Drake's newest pupils at the start of the summer. They are joined by Billy and Alicia Light, children of Lewis Light, Lord Chiddingford, the Minister of Dragons. The children begin their studies and fieldwork amidst a swirl of mounting danger. An ailing dragon chick has been left at the doorstep of Dr Drake's shop in London, Dragonalia, and has been ferried to Castle Drake in St Leonard's Forest, Sussex. Another dragon, a wyvern raised from an egg by Dr Drake but not yet ready to be returned to the wild, keeps escaping his enclosure. On top of this, Ignatius Crook, son of the deceased Ebenezer Crook, is trying to find the Dragon's Eye Gem, an ancient stone that will confirm the holder's status as a true Dragon Master. The Dragon Master heads the S.A.S.D. and serves as main envoy to the Society of Dragons. The gem has been in the Crook family for years, but Ebenezer felt that he could not pass it on and returned it to the dragon's treasure hoard. But, which dragon?
The first half of the book covers much of the material found in Dragonology and The Dragonology Handbook, informing the reader of the different kinds of dragons, their habitats and how to study them, which is the main focus of the 'ologies books. The second half is taken up with the search for the Dragon's Eye Gem and the race to keep it out of the evil hands of Ignatius Crook and his henchwoman, the Russian specialist in the study of dragon illnesses, Alexandra Gorynytchka. The book is set in the summer of 1882 and, having recently read Barnaby Grimes and the Curse of the Night Wolf, set in London in roughly the same time period, I wished for a bit more historical detail and description from Steer. However, I think it is a difficult job to write historical fiction and fantasy for children and blend them seamlessly. Overall, I had the feeling that this book should have been shorter and geared for a slightly younger audience, based on the minimal depth, complexity of the plot and character development. Perhaps this is something that Dugald Steer is working on as he writes the second book in the series, The Dragon Diary and book 3, The Dragon's Apprentice...
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for the dragon lovers in your family!