Friday, September 23, 2011

Review of Dragon's Tooth by N.D. Wilson

Wilson, N.D. The Dragon's Tooth.  Random House, 2011.

I finished this book a week ago but have put off reviewing it because it reminds me strongly of another book - or maybe a movie - and I've been wracking my brains trying to remember which one.  No matter, I'll charge on regardless.

Siblings Cyrus and Antigone live in the seedy, molding motel that their older brother Daniel has been operating ever since their dad died and their mom lapsed into a coma.  This depressing and sorrowful life comes to an abrupt end when old Billy Bones shows up at the motel, bequeaths some magical objects to Cyrus (keys; a dragon's tooth, a small snake named Patricia) with the aid of his lawyer Horace, and promptly dies.

Immediately, a very bad individual named Maxi and his henchman, sent by the sinister Mr. Phoenix, show up and all hell breaks loose.  Daniel is kidnapped, and Cyrus and Antigone just barely make it with Horace to the headquarters of The Order of Brendan, an ancient society of magical explorers, adventurers, and heroes.

It turns out that Cyrus and Antigone's dad was a member of the Order - but not one in good standing.  Cyrus and Antigone are inducted as Acolytes - which brings Maxi and the rest of Mr. Phoenix's nasties down full-force upon the Order of Brendan.  They'll destroy everyone and everything to get those magical objects of Cyrus' - and only Cyrus, Antigone, and their friends can stop them.

There is a great deal of fascinating secret-society lore going back hundreds of years; apparently plenty of famous folks and objects are linked to the Order of Brendan (or its nemeses).  Rick Riordan fans will enjoy the plucky, bantering kids and their relationships with adults good and bad, plus the link with ancient traditions and myths.  There is a hint of Neil Gaiman in the intricate details of a full and bustling secret world existing underneath and parallel to our own familiar world.  The ancient and mysterious artifacts, not to mention the dashing derring-do, bring to mind the Indiana Jones movies. And all those kids, teens, and adults hustling urgently here and there in various uniforms, learning ancient languages, flying planes, and practicing with weaponry - well, this is the part that reminds me of some book or movie and I can't think which.  Any thoughts?

As with all his books (Leepike Ridge, the 100 Cupboards series), Wilson peppers Dragon's Tooth with quirky and complex characters.  Simple down-home folks have hidden depths; everyone has at least one secret under their sleeves, and both allies and traitors pop up when least expected.  The history of the Order and its members, not to mention the mysteries surrounding Cyrus' and Antigone's own family, is so tantalizingly hinted at that readers will finish the last page gasping for the next installment.

Highly recommended for grades 5 to 8.

P.S.  For some words from N.D. Wilson on his 5 kids, the inspiration for 100 cupboards, and more, click here.

No comments:

Post a Comment