Downer - Book Reviews

***** - Excellent
**** - Good
*** - Okay
** - Bad
* - Terrible
+ - Half-star

Hatching Magic
Ann Downer
Scholastic
Fiction, YA Fantasy
***+

DESCRIPTION: In medieval times, when magic was still known as a potent force in the natural world, the king's wizard Gideon has a problem: his tamed wyvern Wycca has vanished. If his rival, the defrocked wizard Kobold, finds out, it could spell big trouble for both man and dragon, for a lost wyvern can be spellbound to turn on its master. Fortunately (or unfortunately), Wycca isn't in Kobold's clutches. She simply went looking for a private place to lay her egg, and stumbled onto a patch of Wild Magic, a "bolt- hole" that leads through space and time to 21st-century Boston. Gideon hurries after her, but Kobold and his demon servant surely can't be far behind...
Theodora Oglethorpe is having a lousy summer. Her two friends are off at camp until school starts up, and her own father, abroad on a scientific expedition, left her behind as if she were just a useless child. It's not too bad - she has her nanny Mikko, a woman of many talents whom Theodora has come to love almost as much as the mother she lost - but it's just not fair. Her one solace and obsession is the fantasy trading card franchise Wyverns & Wizards, but the other players won't let her into their secret club until she amasses the entire card deck (almost impossible, of course)... unless maybe she can find a living wyvern. But they're just fairy tales, like magic and wizards, aren't they?

REVIEW: After some wandering, this one grabbed me for a full night of reading. The usual time travel gimmicks of people from the past being dazzled by modern mundanities were kept to a blessed minimum; Gideon thankfully spends far less time marvelling over the "tamed lightning" of electricity than he does working on the much more pressing problem of finding Wycca before Kobold can work any mischief. Theodora gets annoying at times with her immaturity, but otherwise I liked the characters. even if it did take a little long for all of them to finally run into each other. If they hadn't spend so much time not meeting each other, one particular plot revelation at the end (no spoilers, sorry) wouldn't have felt so rushed and tacked on. It turns out that there will be at least one more book in the series (sales figures pending, I imagine), but the story of Wycca wraps up in this volume. Overall, this is a nice, fun fantasy.

You might also enjoy:
Fairy Metal Thunder (JL Bryan, YA Fiction - A modern teen musician steals magical instruments from Fairyland, leading his garage band to great success... and trouble)
Cora and the Nurse Dragon (H. L. Burke, YA Fiction - Young Cora discovers a special dragon, one that makes her pet dragon eggs hatch wonders)
Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher (Bruce Coville, YA Fiction - A boy buys a dragon egg in a mysterious magic shop)
How to Train Your Dragon (Cressida Cowell, YA Fiction - Misfit Viking boy Hiccup struggles to train a stubborn dragon to avoid shaming his chieftain father)
Dragonsdale (Salamanda Drake, YA Fiction - At a special riding school, human children learn to ride dragons... except for the stable owner's daughter, forbidden to fly by her father)
Savvy (Ingrid Law, YA Fiction - On her 13th birthday, a girl will develop magical powers, which she hopes will help save her critically-injured father)
George Grove and the Dragon (LJ Lawry, YA Ficton - Three South London boys find a dragon's egg)
The First Dragoneer (M. R. Mathias, YA Fiction - On an ill-fated hunting trip, a peasant boy discovers his destiny)
Eragon (Christopher Paolini, Fiction - A farmboy finds a dragon's egg, changing his life and possibly the world)
The Dragons Are Singing Tonight (Jack Prelutsky, YA Poetry - Dragon poems that sing)
Switch! The Lost Kingdoms of Karibu (Karen Prince, YA Fiction - Three modern African boys become entangled in magical dangers in a hidden world)
Guardians Inc.: The Cypher (Julian Rosado-Machain, YA Fiction - Able to understand any written language, a boy is recruited by a secret organization to help save the world)
The Harry Potter series (J. K. Rowling, YA Fiction - A boy discovers his magical heritage and a hidden world of wizards living among us)
The Dragon that Ate Summer (Brenda Seabrooke, YA Fiction - A boy finds a little blue dragon in his mother's garden)
The Dragonology books (Dugald A. Steer, editor, YA Fiction - Notes on dragon species from around the world)
How to Raise and Keep a Dragon (John Topsell, Joseph Nigg "editor", YA Fiction - The art and science of dragon ownership)
The Dragon Machine (Helen Ward, YA Picture Book - A young boy starts seeing dragons everywhere)
Dragon Girl (Jeff Weigel, YA Fiction - An orphan girl discovers a cave full of dragon eggs, even as a dragon-slaying knight lurks nearby)
Kasey And His Dragon (E. H. White, YA Fiction - A modern boy finds a dragon's egg, sweeping him off to his destiny in another world)
The Dragons of Ordinary Farm (Tad Williams and Deborah Beale, YA Fiction - Two children discover a magical secret at their great-uncle's farm)
The Pit Dragon Chronicles (Jane Yolen, YA Fiction - A slave boy on Austar IV, young Jakkin steals an egg from his master to raise his own fighting dragon for the betting pits)
The Dragonback Adventures (Timothy Zahn, YA Fiction - A teen thief of the future finds himself stuck with an honor-bound dragonlike alien)

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The Dragon of Never-Was
(Sequel to Hatching Magic)
Ann Downer
Scholastic
Fiction, YA Fantasy
****

DESCRIPTION: How do you return to a normal life after you've found a hatchling wyvern, talked to magicians from another time, fought an evil wizard, and tapped into terrifyingly potent powers within your own mind? Twelve-year-old Theodora Oglethorpe, a modern Boston girl, did all that, and more, in the Events of Last Summer, and try as she might she can't seem to go back to being the ordinary kid she used to be. Her former best friends have drifted away, her faithful nanny Mikko - whom she had hoped would become her new mother - has left... even the wizard who introduced her to her own powers hasn't talked to her since. At least she still has her father, even if he doesn't remember a thing about the Events. His article describing a wyvern's scale finally got him the professorship he had long deserved, so at least something positive came out of last summmer's trouble. When he gets a letter from the Scottish island of Scornsay about another mysterious scale, he heads off to investigate - and, for once, he takes Theodora with him. If she thought she'd get a break from magic and wyverns in Scotland, she's sadly mistaken, for that scale ties in to a mystery steeped in superstition, wizard conspiracies, forbidden prophecies, and that most peculiar magical dimension of Never-Was.

REVIEW: I enjoyed Theodora's first adventure enough to grab this book when I saw it at Half Price Books. I think I liked this book better. Not so much of the plot relies on conveniently missed meetings and people taking too long to figure things out; Theodora already knows about magic this time around, and isn't quite so slow on the uptake about things. She struggles over whether or not she can come to terms with her gifts, gifts which will alienate her from many people, including her own father. The magical "technobabble" slows things down now and again, but overall it reads quickly. Downer did a good job recapping events from the first book, so newcomers shouldn't be completely thrown. (One sentence toward the very end, though, might puzzle those unfamiliar with Theodora's first adventure and its outcome.) I enjoyed this story. There is, of course, every hint of a third book, with new enemies and allies awaiting Theodora; I expect I'll read it, should I find it cheap enough someday.

You might also enjoy:
Fairy Metal Thunder (JL Bryan, YA Fiction - A modern teen musician steals magical instruments from Fairyland, leading his garage band to great success... and trouble)
Cora and the Nurse Dragon (H. L. Burke, YA Fiction - Young Cora discovers a special dragon, one that makes her pet dragon eggs hatch wonders)
Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher (Bruce Coville, YA Fiction - A boy buys a dragon egg in a mysterious magic shop)
How to Train Your Dragon (Cressida Cowell, YA Fiction - Misfit Viking boy Hiccup struggles to train a stubborn dragon to avoid shaming his chieftain father)
Dragonsdale (Salamanda Drake, YA Fiction - At a special riding school, human children learn to ride dragons - except for the stable owner's daughter, forbidden to fly by her father)
Savvy (Ingrid Law, YA Fiction - On her 13th birthday, a girl will develop magical powers, which she hopes will help save her critically-injured father)
George Grove and the Dragon (LJ Lawry, YA Ficton - Three South London boys find a dragon's egg)
The First Dragoneer (M. R. Mathias, YA Fiction - On an ill-fated hunting trip, a peasant boy discovers his destiny)
Eragon (Christopher Paolini, Fiction - A farmboy finds a dragon's egg, changing his life and possibly the world)
The Dragons Are Singing Tonight (Jack Prelutsky, YA Poetry - Dragon poems that sing)
Switch! The Lost Kingdoms of Karibu (Karen Prince, YA Fiction - Three modern African boys become entangled in magical dangers in a hidden world)
Guardians Inc.: The Cypher (Julian Rosado-Machain, YA Fiction - Able to understand any written language, a boy is recruited by a secret organization to help save the world)
The Harry Potter series (J. K. Rowling, YA Fiction - A boy discovers his magical heritage and a hidden world of wizards living among us)
The Dragon that Ate Summer (Brenda Seabrooke, YA Fiction - A boy finds a little blue dragon in his mother's garden)
The Dragonology books (Dugald A. Steer, editor, YA Fiction - Notes on dragon species from around the world)
How to Raise and Keep a Dragon (John Topsell, Joseph Nigg "editor", YA Fiction - The art and science of dragon ownership)
The Dragon Machine (Helen Ward, YA Picture Book - A young boy starts seeing dragons everywhere)
Dragon Girl (Jeff Weigel, YA Fiction - An orphan girl discovers a cave full of dragon eggs, even as a dragon-slaying knight lurks nearby)
Kasey And His Dragon (E. H. White, YA Fiction - A modern boy finds a dragon's egg, sweeping him off to his destiny in another world)
The Dragons of Ordinary Farm (Tad Williams and Deborah Beale, YA Fiction - Two children discover a magical secret at their great-uncle's farm)
The Pit Dragon Chronicles (Jane Yolen, YA Fiction - A slave boy on Austar IV, young Jakkin steals a new-hatched fighting dragon from his master in a desperate bid for freedom)
The Dragonback Adventures (Timothy Zahn, YA Fiction - A teen thief of the future finds himself stuck with an honor-bound dragonlike alien)

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