“A dragon handler with her head in the clouds is cursed. Those were my mother’s last words to me.”
— Todd Lockwood, The Summer Dragon
Illustrator Todd Lockwood has decided to jump into the story-telling business with this debut novel featuring the one thing he’ll never fail to draw magnificently: dragons. Known for his artistic talent and his artwork in The Memoirs of Lady Trent series, The Summer Dragon is his first venture in the fantasy world. This novel is marketed as a a high fantasy novel with dragons and deadly politics but I’d rectify that and say it felt a lot more like a young adult fantasy novel with dragons and a discourse on the foundation of religion. There’s nothing wrong with that, as even adults can find this debut novel engrossing, but a warning beforehand would definitely have been highly welcome! Todd Lockwood delivers a very fluid, straight-forward and easy-to-picture story that puts Maia, a young women who will do anything for what she believes is right for her aerie, in the center stage. The plot develops very smoothly and never falters, diving here and then in questions of belief and faith with a unique dragon lore/mythology to envelop Todd Lockwood’s world.
The story is centered around Maia and her unquenchable thirst to receive her very own dragon. The day that she can finally keep a dragon and secure a magical bond with it grows closer, but things don’t go as smoothly as she would have wished. Maia and her family live in an aerie where they raise dragons and every year they deliver their flock of baby dragons to the Dragonry in hopes of contributing to the peace through a an increase in potential dragons for wars. This year the war has reached a dangerous status and a need for dragons has become so extravagant that the hopes of Maia in keeping a dragon seem slim. Things however become a lot more complicated when Maia and her brother suddenly run into a rare, mysterious and mythical High Dragon, known as the Summer Dragon. The encounter of this majestic creature propels everyone into rumors of its meaning for Maia, her brother and everyone in the community; similar to crossing paths with a God. This event immediately integrates a political and religious facet to the story and plunges the world into a battle of interpretations. Todd Lockwood hence makes readers ponder the ability of individuals to control the future through individual actions instead of leaving it to superstitions and uncontrollable forces. The idea is sleekly introduced and never felt overwhelming, making it hard to complain about.
The writing is beyond reproach. Todd Lockwood does a magnificent job at bringing life to his story and at delivering a vivid and tangible experience. His grasp on dragons is flawless and detailed. He goes deep into the purring, the rumbling and the growling of these creatures, you just can’t help but believe that dragons are real. He gives them a lifelike description and doesn’t ever flounder with giving them a strong and powerful presence. It’s the interaction with humans that makes them even more hypnotizing and convincing. The authors ability to play with emotions and to develop bonds between dragons and riders is impeccable. You quickly realize this when the first scenes that tackle the ability of dragons to fly is presented. This sends you feel chills and forces you to embrace with joy the experience that the characters go through. While the story unfolds at its own steady pace, a huge chunk of The Summer Dragon is focused on taking care of dragons and building the relationship between Maia and dragons, as well as Maia and her family. But you should note one thing. You will be learning a lot details about grooming and feeding dragons.
While Maia turns out to be the center of attention in this story and gets all the development you’d want in your hero, the same could not be said about the supporting cast. Unfortunately, there’s a strong chosen one trope that hovers over this tale. It’s not a bad thing since Todd Lockwood does a wonderful job in making Maia’s adventures and discoveries entertaining, but it does deprive us from being able to thoroughly enjoy the experience. The problem that arose is that every character around Maia ended up feeling like their existence only had one purpose and that it was inevitably related to Maia. Most of the characters rarely ever had the opportunity to show more of themselves and to construct more dimensions to their personalities and motivations. Maia’s brother does fight to prove that he isn’t a cardboard cutout character, but his struggle to succeed at that colossal task was apparent and ended up reinforcing this idea that Maia is the one that causes everything and everyone else to gravitate around her. It would have been nice if the first person narration didn’t take control and that the author took more time in building the rest of the characters.
The Summer Dragon is an excellent full-fledged and dragon-filled debut novel. It is a surprise that Todd Lockwood has only just released his first story. I suppose that it was only a question of time when you realize that each of his drawings conveyed a story of their own. Speaking of which, even if he decided to endeavor in story-telling, he does also integrate pictures at the beginning of chapters to help visualize his story; not to say that this was even needed though. It was always refreshing to see the artwork here and then. Anyhow, even if the tale that he unleashed upon us was forthright, it never wavered in uncharted and incomprehensible territories. Withal, the best part of this book is definitely the relationship between humans and dragons. It is genuine, natural and charming. You can’t help but connect with your own emotions and feel joyous or pained for these over-sized puppies with wings. Todd Lockwood definitely masters his understanding of pet companions and the immutable bond between riders and dragons. The Summer Dragon is a wonderful debut for Todd Lockwood first outing into the writing world. But fans of fantasy novels should be warned that there’s a slightly strong hint of young adult in this dish. The adventures, the characters and the protagonist-centered story heavily contribute to that vibe and I wish they’d have marketed it with that optic.
THANK YOU TO PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE FOR SENDING ME AN ADVANCE COPY FOR REVIEW!
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MY OVERALL RATING: ★★★☆☆/