DragonQuest by Donita K. Paul
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Perhaps I didn't give this book as fair a shot as I could have. When I bought it, I couldn't find the first book in the trilogy, so I got this one and the last. And perhaps the reading suffered from not having the background laid in the first episode.
Kale is a Dragon Keeper. She can help dragon eggs quicken and hatch. Formerly a slave, when her abilities are made known, she is sent to train at the Hall, where she is to be trained to be in service to Paladin, the leader/spiritual guardian of Amara. In this story, Kale is summoned from the Hall to the Bogs where the wizard Fenworth needs her to help in the raising of the meech dragon whose egg Kale quickened. Meech dragons are intelligent, strong, and fast-growing, and so need training. Along the way, they fall into another scheme of the evil wizard, Risto, this one involving a second meech. Kale and her companions set out to rescue the second meech, and keep Risto from causing a war that could tear the kingdom apart.
Most of the story was independent of the first book, and much of the backstory was filled in with enough detail to give the reader everything needed to understand what's going on, without getting bogged down in too much retelling. The one thing I found confusing was the number of different races (seven high races and seven low) that inhabit Amara. It was hard to keep them all straight. There is an appendix in the back that describes all of them, as well as the several types of dragons, but it was unwieldy to have to keep turning back and forth. Maybe they were introduced more fully in the first book, and so I have to lay some of the fault here on me since I didn't read it.
The characters were generally good. The wizards in Kale's company are eccentric, with just enough humor in their character to make them fun. I did find Kale a little flat, and a little too predictable. Other supporting characters were okay, with the meech dragon Regidor one of the most interesting.
The world building is fairly minimal, but, again, that might be the fault of reading a second book first. Since the action takes place within the kingdom of Amara, there may be less need to detail a lot if it was set up in the first book.
Paul is a Christian writer, so there is a fair amount of religious allegory, although references are more subtle and not direct, a bit like some of C.S. Lewis. A reader need not know or be able to identify exact references to understand the story.
All in all, it was a decent read. I would suggest not following my lead, and read the first book, Dragon Spell, first.
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