Wings of Fire 3: The Hidden Kingdom

16100976Wings of Fire Book Three: The Hidden Kingdom* by Tui T. Sutherland

I read it as a: paperback

Source: my daughter’s own collection

Length: 336 pp

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Year: 2013

This is the third book in the Wings (snerk. I mistyped it wongs. I am amused. And, apparently, 12) of Fire series, this time focusing on Glory, the RainWing. The dragonets have decided to travel to Glory’s home in the rainforest to find her tribe, the RainWings, and see if they might be prevailed upon to help them in their quest, or at least shelter them from the SeaWings who are pissed off and chasing them from the previous book. When they get there, they discover that “lazy RainWings” isn’t a euphemism applied to Glory by their mean jailers, it is a breed trait. The RainWings generally know nothing about the land beyond the rainforest, don’t care about anything beyond napping, can’t even read, and basically have nothing much going for them. Nor do they notice or apparently care that various members of their tribe are going missing. Incensed, Glory and the other dragonets decide to find out what is happening and discover magical tunnels, like mini wormholes, that take them in an instant from the rainforest to other parts of the world. One of those takes them directly to SandWing territory, and another to NightWing territory. Glory herself becomes a prisoner after using herself as bait, but makes her escape with the help of a spunky baby dragonet, Kinkajou, and returns to the rainforest to challenge the current queen for the throne.

This was a decent entry in the Wings of Fire series. They are all pretty entertaining so far, for kids’ books, though to date, nothing has managed to come close to my love of the Dragonriders of Pern. But my daughter is enthralled with this series and wanted me to read them, so I am reading them to please her. I remember wanting my mom to read the books I loved when I was little, so I am happy to do the same for my own child.

Anyway. This book focused mainly on Glory as she learned about her tribe, the RainWings. They are perhaps not lazy, more like indifferent to the outside world, ignorant, and irresponsible. It’s like they’ve mentally arrested at the development level of young children, or Republicans but without the generally wilful meanness. They just don’t do things they don’t want to, or that sound boring, or that interfere with their naptime. Glory sees this and is appalled, especially once she realizes that none of them even realise dragons are missing, and no one cares to do anything about it. When she takes her complaint to the Queen, Magnificent, she tells Glory that it’s just a few and there are lots of RainWings, so it’s ok. Glory uses herself as bait to get kidnapped so she can find out where the missing dragons are, gets one tiny dragonet out (with help from said dragonet and Clay), and then challenges the Queen.

Glory develops a lot in this book. She learns to be more empathetic – or else she always was and it just shows more here. When she uses herself as bait, she makes sure to do it in such a way that protects her friends as much as possible. When she challenges the queen, she relies on the RainWings who have helped her to win the throne, which she couldn’t have done if she had used her prophecy friends. She learns to trust people other than herself and rely on people to do their jobs for her when she can’t do it herself. I think that is a good lesson for kids, and for adults as well: we can’t always do everything ourselves, sometimes we need help from our friends, and it’s absolutely fine not to know everything or be able to do it all on our own.

The other dragons are less of a feature, though Kinkajou was sometimes cute and a solid ally. Jambu was as well, though rather annoying. The prophecy dragons were mostly an afterthought in this one and played little role in the plot overall, which may not appeal to major fans of those characters. For myself, I am somewhat indifferent to them and don’t have a favorite, so this wasn’t a problem to me. The story was fine and the resolution of the challenge to the queen was satisfying.

However, there were several unfinished plot threads that I found a bit irksome. I hope they are picked up in book 4 because it would be sloppy otherwise, more so than in the previous book with a couple abandoned plots there. Maybe everything will tie together in later books. This is why I get bored with long series. I like a good, tight plot, dense and intricate but still resolved in two or three books. After that, super long series just become like Grey’s Anatomy or Game of Thrones – bloated and unending and just carrying on for the sake of seeing how much more the writers can wring out of it before sending it to a sad and meaningless death. Hopefully that doesn’t happen here. Sutherland seems a talented writer, so I remain hopeful that she hasn’t forgotten the plots she left behind and will tie them up neatly in the rest of the books.

*Amazon affiliate link.

Wings of Fire: The Dragonet Prophecy

13228487Wings of Fire: The Dragonet Prophecy by Tui T. Sutherland

I read it as a: paperback

Source: my daughter’s collection

Length: 336 pp

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Year: 2012

This world, at war for decades, is ruled by dragons. The land is broken and bleeding and all are suffering because of the wars between the seven various groups of dragons. A prophecy states that after 20 years of war, a group of dragonets, born under special circumstances, will come to unite the dragons and bring peace. These dragonets – Clay, Glory, Tsunami, Starflight, and Sunny – have been taken from their native homes, hatched together in a hidden cave under the mountains, and raised together against their will by dragons working for a group called the Talons of Peace. Their purpose is to raise these dragonets to fulfill the prophecy. The problem is, the dragonets have ideas of their own, don’t really want to be part of a prophecy, and just want to find their families and be normal dragons. And there are other factions who are not interested in bringing the war to an end.

This was a relatively fast read, or would have been if I wasn’t reading it as a bedtime story with my daughter, just a chapter or two per night. She loves this series, but Pern, it is not. It’s super violent for a middle grade book, which I don’t really like. It did provide for some decent discussion about why prophecies are illogical and false, a good exercise in using her critical thinking while still reading a fun story. It also shows how even the most bitter of enemies can learn to get along if you get to know each other, or are raised together and can overlook each other’s differences, i.e., nobody is born a racist. But in general, I didn’t find the actual story to be all that compelling or the writing that good. It was fine for what it was, which is a story my 8 year old enjoys, though I wish she enjoyed something less violent. I am determined to get her addicted to the Dragonriders of Pern. It WILL happen!

Dragon’s Code

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Dragon’s Code by Gigi McCaffrey
I read it as a: digital galley
Source: Netgalley
Length: 272 pp
Publisher: Del Rey
Year: 2018

A NEW PERN BOOK!! *FLAILS*

Ahem. Dragon’s Code, set in the Ninth Pass of the Red Star, returns readers to the characters Lady Anne originally wrote – F’lar, Lessa, Master Robinton, the Oldtimers. Here, young harper Piemur, whose voice had previously been glorious until its adolescent break, has been somewhat adrift for the past three years. While waiting for his voice to settle, he has been mapping the Southern Continent for Robinton, but has been pining for his lost voice and his harper’s trade. He feels bereft and useless, something no one enjoys. Robinton, really the Pern equivalent of Francis Walsingham, spymaster extraordinaire, has learned of a plot against Jaxom, the young Lord of Ruatha. This is based in part on the theft of Ramoth’s queen egg by the desperate Oldtimers, an event that could drive dragon to fight dragon, and which is very familiar to long-time Pern fans. In response, Robinton sends Piemur and Sebell, his own journeyman, into Nabol, from whence the threat arises. While there, Piemur and Sebell encounter the worst people Nabol has to offer, enduring abuse and worse. Piemur has to learn the lesson that sometimes revenge serves no justice and can cause further damage. Ultimately, he finds his voice – in an unexpected way.

This was a wonderful addition to the Pern canon. I admit that part of it is pure nostalgia because no one can write Pern as well as Lady Anne herself, not even her daughter. The Ninth Pass is my favorite, mostly because that is what Lady Anne wrote mostly, and what she wrote first, and what most readers were introduced to when first encountering Pern. It’s the “right” time to be in. It felt good to come home to the Ninth Pass.

I also loved seeing Piemur grow from a lost, and let’s face it, kind of whiny kid to a young man full of purpose and drive. There was a lot to be said of his path in this story. It is not just a traditional bildungsroman, which would have been boring, indeed. He learned to lean on his friends and family, to trust himself, and when in doubt, always listen to your mother. I loved the bits of wisdom Ama doled out – it felt like those might have been things Lady Anne said to Ms Gigi and Todd as they grew up. It was like a little bit of Anne coming back to talk to her readers, and whether it is true or not, it was delightful. My favorite was:

I don’t think, my Pie, that any of us could be happy in life by doing just one thing. Through all these long Turns I’ve lived, I’ve grown to see some parts of my life very clearly. It was the unlikely choices I made – where the sights I set my aim at were hardest to reach – that became the most highly valued feats of my life. Maybe it’s because the goals were hard-won. I could not say for certain. … You’ll be fine, my Pie. Just be yourself, and always listen to your instincts…and you’ll be fine. (Kindle loc 3421)

Piemur took these words to heart and managed to find his voice, literally and figuratively, in a way that is perfect for him. I can’t wait to see what the next installment has in store.

The book played on themes of honor and trust throughout, which is directly related to the titular dragon’s code. The code that has to be upheld for Pern’s way of life to work has been violated on both sides – Oldtimer and modern riders alike have acted wrongly. The trust the crafters and holders place in the dragons has been broken. The honor of the dragonfolk has been bent, if not broken as well, and all must learn to work together to repair the code.

At first, there was a little too much telling and not showing, especially for readers already intimately familiar with Pern. It took a little while, but Ms. Gigi did eventually hit her stride and the pacing got much better. Some things are a little inaccurate based on her mother’s previous books. For example, Silvina is the Harper Hall’s headwoman, not Fort’s. The Hall and Fort are separate, though adjacent, so each would have their own headwoman. Totally minor, though, and not anything that took away from the overall story.

Overall, I HIGHLY recommend this book – I already preordered the hardcopy for my own collection – and was absolutely beside myself to see a new Pern book on the market. I devoutly hope there will be more Pern books, and soon, from Ms Gigi. I was fine when Todd was writing Pern books, because any Pern book is better than none. But I didn’t care for his nearly as well as I did for this one. I thought Ms Gigi’s was better written, and I admit that I prefer those that are set in the Ninth Pass.

Dear Ms Gigi – PLEASE write more Pern books! I loved this and miss the people of the Ninth Pass terribly. They are real people, you know, and we need to visit our friends. I can’t wait to see what Piemur’s new career has in store for him! Love, Me.