At A Glance
Author: Bryan Davis
Publisher: Tyndale House
On Sale Date: 10/5/21
Synopsis: Soon after learning that he is part dragon, Billy finds himself in a conflict between good and evil as he seeks to protect his family and friends from the slayer.
Notes: Clean read with allegorical undertones. I recommend this book to fans of action and dragons.
Originally published in 2004, the first book in Davis’ Dragons in Our Midst series occupied a space in my church library when I was growing up. When I saw the title on NetGalley a few weeks ago, I decided to request the book. I received a free e-ARC from Tyndale House and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
What I Liked
Treatment of Magic and the Supernatural
I think I was expecting this to be one of the “children travel to another world” or “children set out on a Medeival adventure” kinds of books, but this was set in our world and time. I think it would be identified as Christian magical realism.
I use this term because the novel introduces fantasy elements to our world, but I use the term loosely because there’s no actual magic in the book.
Early on in the book, Davis makes it clear that certain events and powers ordinarily attributed to magic are actually the resulting of God empowering people, or even designing materials to perform a certain way. I really appreciate this distinction, because there’s no confusion for kids about endorsing witchcraft. Plus, it showcases God’s power and mystery, rather than portraying magic as something interesting and exciting apart from God.
In the process, the author reclaims the King Arthur legend, which I also really appreciated. Here, Merlin isn’t a wizard, but a prophet. And Excalibur was created by God to fulfill a specific purpose. This was a refreshing reframing of the tales, because I have had mixed feelings about the King Arthur legend, due to the magic. Reading this novel, I was able to enjoy the lore through a different lens.
I also really appreciate that the book used Scripture to engage with the topic of dragons— both their existence and moral standing. I believe wonder and imagination are essential (and frequently overlooked) components of our faith, hence Jesus’ teaching in story. By examining dragons in the Bible, the book provoked me to wonder, and I am both glad and grateful that it did.
In terms of the writing, itself, my favorite passages were the poetic ones. I really enjoyed the opening prophecy, as well as those embedded throughout the story. For me, these really strengthened the novel. My favorite passage was a character’s (beautifully written) description of love.
Critique: Setting /Pacing
I think I ended up a little disappointed that the book was set entirely here, in the present. While the book’s description did not imply otherwise, the references to King Arthur made me suspect something else was coming. Plus, I would have liked to see more description/ showcasing of the author’s skill in the one chapter that does flash back to King Arthur.
The book was action-packed, so I would recommend it to readers who enjoy action-filled stories. For me, I was more interested in the mystery of the book (not mystery as in “whodunnit,” but mystery as in “What’s going on?”) than in the action, and I felt that the action bogged down the story.
However, I do think I would have found it much more engaging if I had a pre-existing interest in dragons. Overall, I would definitely recommend the book because of its many strong points— particularly to those who like action and dragons— but likely will not be reading book two. This isn’t a critique of the book itself. I just found that it wasn’t the best fit for me.
Overall, the novel read like a children’s book, with the main characters in Middle School. There was one potentially reference to “getting some action,” which originally made me think that the characters were in high school. However, as I revisit the scene with a better understanding of the characters’ ages, I think the line is probably just referring to getting a boy’s attention.
I would gladly recommend this book, not so much for the plotline as for the wholesomeness. I think this definitely offers a good alternative to mainstream dragon books and even King Arthur adaptations.