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312 pages, Hardcover
First published January 15, 2019
Sounds fun, right? But the problem is - it doesn’t just read young, it reads *juvenile*. In that overly-simplistic, unsophisticated way that plagues a lot of stories written for children, and which the good books can escape¹. But Dragon Pearl does not.
“You’ve been very busy, Min,” Seok said. “Over the last two months or so, you’ve run away from home, deceived spaceport security, gotten involved with a gambling den, been in a shoot-out with mercenaries, impersonated a dead cadet and an active captain, released prisoners without authorization, stolen an escape pod, and broken the Fourth Colony’s quarantine.”
¹ And no, I’m not being critical just because I am much too old for a children’s book. There are quite a few very well-written fantastical books for younger audience that nevertheless are wonderful no matter what the readers’ age is:We are supposed to believe Min is resourceful and intelligent. Even a seasoned pilot grudgingly (of course) remarks on her smarts. But what I can’t help but see instead is a bratty yet a bit naive kid who is very lucky at overhearing plot-important things and - of course - just happens to be the best magic user in the family with an unexplained aptitude for engineering making her the most badass barely trained 13-year-old.
- Terry Pratchett’s The Wee Free Men and its sequels.
- Anything by Frances Hardinge - but especially A Face Like Glass, Gullstruck Island, and The Lie Tree
- Neil Gaiman’s Coraline.
- Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones.
- China Mieville’s Un Lun Dun.
“Whenever I wasn’t sure what to do, I just trusted my instincts.”She’s always unerringly right and wins loyalty of most easily because of simple reason of existing. And every adult is easily outwitted, the villain thwarted, magic relics easily handled and the government representatives indulgingly entertained and pacified. Her magic seems to know no limits and is ridiculously effortless — which made me really wonder why her fellow foxes with all those abilities of Charm are not running the world but are instead scrounging away in poverty and disgrace.
Everything is just so blatantly convenient. Every perfectly overheard conversation. Every conveniently written observation in a notebook in a room conveniently easy to break into, with a conveniently labeled map with coordinates included, again, so conveniently. A convenient ghost(s) the moment you need one. Convenient spaceships conveniently ready to take basically a hitchhiking kid without ever asking inconvenient questions.
“Fox magic was handy that way, if sometimes unpredictable—once you envisioned what you needed, it covered all the details.”It’s just all too easy. Too simple. Too unearned. Too much zapping between locations for plot’s sake without any lingering connections to the ones we visited, or the characters we met there. Too little of character development, and all of them are pretty bland anyway. Too cheesy of an ending.
The lasting prejudice against us annoyed me. Other supernaturals, like dragons and goblins and shamans, could wield their magic openly, and were even praised for it. Dragons used their weather magic for agriculture and the time-consuming work of terraforming planets. Goblins, with their invisibility caps, could act as secret agents; their ability to summon food with their magical wands came in handy, too. Shamans were essential for communicating with the ancestors and spirits, of course. We foxes, though - we had never overcome our bed reputation. At least most people thought we were extinct nowadays.