Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Review of Dragonfly by Julia Golding
Golding, Julia. Dragonfly. Marshall Cavendish, 2009.
In order to seal an alliance between their two countries, it is decided that the Fourth Crown Princess Taoshira of the Blue Crescent Islands and Prince Ramil of Gerfal should wed. Both are reluctant, to say the least, and this only worsens when 16-year-old Taoshira travels to Gerfal and loathes 18-year-old Ramil (and vice versa) at first sight. However, they've barely met when they are both kidnapped by the rapacious, blood-thirsty leader of a neighboring country. They manage to escape, but have many more dangerous adventures before being reunited, against all odds, at last - having, of course, fallen in love with each other along the way.
While Prince Ramil's land and culture feel very familiar - it's the standard-issue, medieval Europe-type kingdom - the Blue Crescent Islands are captivatingly exotic, what with the government run by four chosen Princesses (who are more like priestesses), the Goddess-based religion, and an extremely formal, ritualized culture. It's no surprise that Taoshira (Tashi for short) finds Ramil an uncouth boor.
This is an alternate world fantasy rather than a magical fantasy - that is, while there is no magic, this is certainly not our world, and as in many fantasies, this is a pre-industrial society (although the Blue Crescent Islanders do possess gunpowder technology). Mainly it is a romantic adventure, with political intrigue, clash of nations and cultures, a slave uprising, and much more.
This tale is satisfying and at times fascinating. Tashi in particular is a complex and intriguing character whose transformation and growth throughout her adventures is believable and moving. Ramil remains a bit flat, and other characters are never fleshed out at all. The plot moves quickly, lagging only when Ramil and Tashi are separated for a time, during which Ramil leads a somewhat boring slave rebellion. The various countries and their political dilemmas are sketched just enough to make the plot points understandable, but we never gain a deeper understanding of this world. Not that this is a flaw per se - but it's just that Tamora Pierce and Sherwood Smith tell similar types of stories but give the reader such a complete, three-dimensional experience that you'd swear their worlds really existed.
The jeweled dragonfly (which really should be origami; a folded paper dragonfly figures prominently in the plot) on the cover makes this book look a tad girly, but young teens of both sexes should enjoy this adventure fantasy quite a bit, so long as they aren't expecting magic. Ages 12 to 16.