Sunday, June 10, 2012

Review: Dragon Academy

Dragon Academy
by Diane Nelson
Published by: Pfoxmoor Publishing
Publication Date: November 23, 2010
Formats Available: eBook, Paperback ~262 pages

With high school finished for the summer, Nick looks forward to visiting his aunt and uncle in New Jersey. What awaits him is a heat wave like no other - and the last two Greywings on the planet. Nick has an innate ability to train horses but will he be able to translate his amazing skill to these teenage dragons?
The steaming soup of mid-summer heats up tempers and tests resolve as Nick vies with fellow trainers, Keith and Maxie, for mastery over their new charges. The dragons, Nikita and Michael, typical teenagers themselves, have other ideas.
Nick treads a torturous path through a minefield of competing demands: the expectations of his aunt and uncle, recalcitrant horses, the Academy’s female students and the overwhelming egos of Nikita and Michael. One small mistake erupts into a conflagration that hurls everyone into a race against time and forces of nature. -from Goodreads

Cover: At first, I had thought the cover was just a coppery-brown color with a picture of a dragon in the center. On closer examination I realized that it was a forest set ablaze with the dragon flying above the treeline. I would love to see the print cover as opposed to the digital version, as it is not always a true depiction of the cover artist’s work.

My Thoughts: Even though the title suggests that the book is about an academy in which one learns about dragons, that is not really the case. The “Academy” is actually a horse training school run by the husband and wife Dietrich and AnnaLise Von Freund. Only after two of the last Greywing dragons are transported to the school and Nick, Dietrich’s nephew, tries his hand at training the dragons he lovingly named Nikita and Michael, we meet the four other teenagers. This isn’t Hogwarts and there aren’t any classes or real teachers. In fact, the majority of the information given is in regards to horses and how similar dragons are to the equine breed.

The existence of dragons is not explained; they just exist. However, dragons are becoming extinct. When a pod of Greywings is found, the two dragons of breeding age are quarantined for the safety of the breed. The dragons are large, temperamental and since they can breathe fire, dangerous creatures and since they are teenagers, doubly so. Michael, the alpha male dragon, is put in his place multiple times by Nikita in ways he won’t soon forget. Don’t worry, they will grow back! Yes, it is exactly what you are thinking.

The main character Nick is suffering the recent loss of his father and needs something to help keep him afloat. Training the dragons seems to be the only activity that makes him happy. When Nick is punished for participating in a prank gone wrong and kept from the dragons, we see a young man that will do anything to numb his emotions. We do see a slight romance kindling between Maxie and Nick, but it is more about friendship than anything. His real love is the dragons and he develops a unique way of communicating with them.

The book is mainly written from Nick’s POV, but not exclusively. Dietrich’s POV is spotlighted throughout the book and I love that German is spoken. Don’t worry, everything they say is translated. There are a few subplots intertwined that make the POV switch for a chapter or two at a time. My favorite subplot is the adventures of BillyBob and BobbyRay, the men who transport the dragons and later giant Prairie Dogs. The parts of the book that were from the POV of the different government officials seemed to drag the story down. Still, some of the names of government agencies such as “The Department for Small, Useless, and Obnoxious Nocturnal Rodents” and “The Department of Large, Dangerous Animals with Anger Management Issues” were hilarious.

The author Diane Nelson has written in various genres throughout her career. One scene in particular highlights the fact that erotica was one of the genres.
“Nick halted abruptly, his gaze transfixed as Maxie lifted her throat to press an ice cube along its swan-like length. Droplets of water wove lazy patterns, intermingling with, then dodging, groups of freckles, as a shower would moisten a field of miniature red poppies. Nick desperately tried not to follow the rivulets traveling the soft swell of her collarbone until disappearing into the pale yellow spandex tank top.”
Don’t get me wrong, the book is very much written for young adults: no cursing, sexual content, or overt violence is described. Ms. Nelson’s writing style can easily be read by children and adults alike and she packs a good amount of action and adventure into her stories. The themes in the book are generally what you would see in other young adult fiction – lack of self-knowledge, lack of confidence, teen angst, guilt, puppy love, and the importance of family, friends, and someone - be it dragon or otherwise, who knows exactly what you are feeling.

I really enjoyed this book; it was funny and well written. As far as I know, this is a stand-alone book. The ending is complete for the most part. The parasite problem inside the dragons is never solved so there is room for a sequel. Overall, Dragon Academy was a fun and whimsical read. If you like dragons, teen drama, or fantasy in general Dragon Academy should be on your summer reading list.

Favorite Quote: "What part of the fire-breathing, nine-hundred-pound reptiles with wings did they not understand?"
★ ★ ★ ★
I enjoyed reading this book. I would recommend to any lover of dragons and fantasy.

FTC Advisory: I was given a copy of this book from the author for an honest review. No backroom deals or whispered promises were made.

Where to Buy:Amazon

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