Book Review, Middle Grade Fiction

BOOK REVIEW: A Darkness of Dragons by S.A. Patrick

– Short Review –

A Darkness of Dragons is shear brilliance in children’s fiction. I have not been this excited about a children’s series of books since a pubescent wizard called Harry Potter first leapt onto the scene. Usborne have unearthed a fabulous author and book that is a real game changer – S.A. Patrick’s storytelling knows no bounds and is masterfully executed. A Darkness of Dragons is a gem of a book and Patrick builds a quite brilliant original tale whilst also creating an unforgettable magical world for his readers to escape into. Everything you want in a book can be found here…this is a series that will explode into a world and become a huge worldwide hit – with a story that has cinematic possibilities you need this book in your life, whether you are middle grade, young adult or like me slightly over the hill.

Other books you may like The Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness, The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling, The Beetle Boy Series by M.G. Leonard The Nine Lives Trilogy by E.R. Murray and Noughts & Crosses Series by Malorie Blackman.

– Long Review –

A Darkness of Dragons is the first book in the new series Songs of Magic written by S.A. Patrick and published by the fabulous Usborne Books. When I first got the book I was a little cautious – ‘not another book about dragons‘ I said to myself, feeling a little like Game of Thrones was responsible for this upturn in the plethora of books with dragons saturating the market presently. But, as all good reviewers do, I ploughed on. When I read the blurb on the back and discovered to my pleasure that  the book was a retelling or a re-imagining of the tale of The Pied Piper of Hamelin – one of my favourite tales as a child I couldn’t help but let out a little scream of excitement. So I pressed on with glee in my heart that this book about dragons may be something quite special indeed and it didn’t disappoint!

As I mentioned the tale of The Pied Piper of Hamelin was a story I loved when I was little, it was just such a fabulously dark and twisty read – as a child I loved it and as an adult who now has two delightful goblins, I have imparted this incredible tale onto them too. I recently purchased a copy of Russell Brands retelling of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, illustrated by the ever brilliant Chris Riddell and the love affair that started so far back in my childhood was rekindled and enjoyed with my children. So my hope is that when my children are old enough to read A Darkness of Dragons they will be so enamoured with it that they wont be able to put it down…quite like myself, there is an intrinsic beauty to the book that had me reading it non-stop – it was as if a piper had snuck into my house and was playing a tune that made me want to keep reading no matter what other jobs I had to do or however tired I was…I just couldn’t stop! (also when they are older there will be a number of these books for them to enjoy and I am sure a couple of movies too!)

This book has everything – action, adventure, dragons, pipers, horror, grief, coming of age…the list is endless. All of these things help make A Darkness of Dragons the ground breaking book that it is. Everyone can find something to like and enjoy – even if like me dragons are not your thing, there is so much more this book has to offer and I can only see this series becoming the next Harry Potter for a new generation of young minds – it is unputdownable brilliance!

In my opinion any book or series of books that gets reluctant readers and children reading deserves high praise, but with A Darkness of Dragons I feel that this book will not only serve this market but will also break out of the middle grade children’s fiction realm into mainstream literature…you will soon find adults reading it on the tube on their morning commutes! This book has far reaching implications in the world of literature and I for one will be championing it to the very end!

A Darkness of Dragons is full of wonderful characters, mouth watering set pieces and a rich tapestry of locations all which serve in building an immersive world one can quite literally get lost in. Patrick also gives us characters that you can champion and really get behind, which will form I am sure the cornerstone for the series to come. Our main cast of characters are Patch a young piper who has run away from his training, Wren a young girl who is forced to live with a strange curse and Barver a Dracogriff (half Dragon half Griffin) – these are only a handful of the fully fleshed out characters that Patrick introduces but there are many more lovable and likeable characters littered throughout the book, that I feel will pop up more as the series progresses and I can only assume there will be many new ones we’ve yet to discover.

A Darkness of Dragons is at it’s best not unlike watching a tightrope walker at the precise moment when they are suspend above the ground walking between buildings, trembling as they cross, you are engrossed as you watch them move inch by inch. Time is frozen: for an instant everything in the world disappears and what you are looking at is both breathtaking and otherworldly. There are many such moments in A Darkness of Dragons and this story will keep you captive in this world long after you finish the book.

A Darkness of Dragons is published by Usborne Books and is available here.

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S.A. Patrick

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S.A. Patrick studied Mathematics at Cambridge before beginning a career in programming within the gaming industry; Songs of Magic: A Darkness of Dragons is his first novel for children. He has previously written books for adults including The Reviver supernatural thriller trilogy and the novelization of cult TV show The Returned (published by Pan Macmillan).

Reviewed by Ross Jeffery

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