Antonia Michaelis: Dragons of Darkness

Joseph Thompson wrote this review.

Well, it’s official. The once new millennium is now a tween. It neither revels in the naive bliss of infancy nor lays claim to the rights and responsibilities of adulthood. Eleven is a tough year. Fortunately, some good books were published last year for those in the tween to early teen demographic.

Antonia Michaelis’s Dragons of Darkness stands out as one of the more beautifully written coming of age novels. Originally published in Germany, 2006, Anthea Bell’s translation appeared in American bookstores in January 2010.

Dragons of Darkness follows the fantastic and undesired adventures of fourteen-year-old Christopher. After falling asleep in Germany and waking up in Nepal, Christopher quickly realizes he’s on a quest to find his missing older brother. He soon befriends Jumar, a young prince with his own mission.

It’s a tough to identify the exact age to whom this book will appeal. The beautiful prose and carefully crafted scenes threaten to bore a younger, tweet-based reading group before they get to the action. The straightforward motives driving the characters may put off older readers.

For those quiet loners between eleven and fourteen, however, Dragons of Darkness is an imaginative escape. It brings the reader into a world of rich colors draining to deadly gray. The wings of a dragon are as vivid as those of a butterfly and each may prove equally deadly. Love, responsibility, privilege, and integrity challenge each character and in turn the reader.

Unlike the real-life dragons, the ones in this book are conquerable. It’s a comfort that everybody, not just the young, can enjoy as this new decade begins with some of last decade’s dragons still circling.

(Amulet Books, 2010)

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