Mella’s got the rare talent of being a Keeper, someone who can communicate with and care for dragons. She tends the herd of farm dragons who produce eggs for her father’s inn, a tough job for a 12-year-old girl. But then everything changes—a knight and his squire, Roger, come to the inn in search of old dragons, the kind who fly and breathe fire, claiming they’re about to return to the country and need to be stopped before they become a threat. But Mella finds the dragon first, and as it dies she swears a solemn promise to take its egg to the dragon hatching grounds. Now, with Roger’s help, she’s got to carry out her promise—and unravel the mystery of what drove off the dragons in the first place…
I should first confess that I read Dragon’s Egg in one sitting, and it was in the doctor’s office while incredibly sick, so I may not have been reading as closely as I generally would. Having an IV in your arm will do that to you. Anyhoo.
I liked this book a lot. It’s actually a very simple quest story: Mella and Roger follow the dragon’s directions, and various events hinder them. Specifically, they’re plagued by a kidnapper named Alain, who knows that Roger is from a wealthy family, and who hopes to ransom him back to his father. In the process of escaping him, they almost lose the egg, Mella almost drowns, and they come across an odd encampment that appears to be an army right before they find the hatching ground entrance. And of course, to keep the egg alive they must place it in the fire every night, which turns out to be easier said than done.
I like both Mella and Roger. I like that Mella has a very vague power; she’s neither an Everykid nor a chosen hero. Her ability to communicate well with dragons comes in handy—but so does her determination and stubbornness. Roger is useful as someone with a little bit of fighting training, but he’s only a squire and no older or larger than Mella, so he isn’t enough of a protector that they become a damsel in distress and her knight in shining armor. Interestingly, because Roger (as a squire and of noble birth) is bound by the laws of honor, Mella feels a lot more freedom in their escapades than he does—she can do the practical (hit someone on the head from behind) which he couldn’t bring himself to. I like that she’s quite blunt about it (telling him that his worries, while nice, are pretty much just stupid when they know they’re the ones doing the right thing overall), and that Roger seems to be a genuinely nice kid, not someone who’s being nice because it feels like his duty.
And I like that the story is very much Mella’s, although that causes a bit of narrative confusion at the end, which gave me pause: show
The one thing I would really have liked expanded on is the history. There’s some really intriguing stuff hinted at—a nursery rhyme about dragons, which Mella and Roger learned different versions of, and which hints at a past between dragons and humans. They know that old dragons were run off by a king generations ago, but not where domesticated farm dragons came from. And they learn that a serious betrayal of the dragons happened, and that the dragons blame that same king for it—lots of fascinating stuff, as I said. But the specifics of what happened never come out. On the one hand, it seems like there could easily be another book exploring this—which I would certainly read!—but on the other hand, I think enough was hinted at that it would have been worth it to fold the history into this book.
All that said, it was a fun, fast read; the world is well built, and I love the image of farm dragons being used for their eggs, like geese. As I said, I would read a sequel if it comes out, so Dragon’s Egg gets three and a half cupcakes.
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