Thursday, March 25, 2010

In Which Trai Reviews 'Voices of Dragons'

The Book: Voices of Dragons

The Author: Carrie Vaughn

How I Found It: As I've said before, big fan of Carrie Vaughn's; I had this one on pre-order for months.

The Review: Kay Wyatt lives in our world. There are cell phones, the Internet, GPS systems. The one thing that differentiates her world from ours? In certain parts of the world, dragons are cloistered, sealed off from humans by the Border.

Kay is 17 and an avid rock climber. Looking for an adventure, she climbs very near to the border of Dragon, knowing full well what a risk she is taking. However, when she reaches the top of the rocks, she accidentally slips and is dragged into the river. She almost drowns before she is rescued by a curious dragon.

To Kay's surprise, the dragon can talk, and is eager to know her. Dragons and humans have been in a cold war since a treaty was formed after World War II, and neither side is comfortable with the other. Although Kay is breaking the law by being over the border, she agrees to meet the dragon again, since he wants to practice his English by talking to her.

Kay and the dragon become friendly. He picks himself the name Artegal, and Kay learns from him that dragons can read and write. They slowly begin flying lessons when Artegal reveals to Kay that humans and dragons used to peacefully coexist. The cold war begins to come to an end, however, when a plane goes down in Dragon and the dragons attack Kay's town, leaving Kay and Artegal grasping at straws for a way to prove coexistence is possible.

I was eager to see how Vaughn's writing would adapt for a YA audience. I was a young adult myself when I started reading the Kitty books, but those are mainly for an adult audience. I was really pleased at how different the tone of this book was from the Kitty books; it really showed Vaughn's range as a writer. Kay is not the snarky, savvy heroine that Kitty is-- she is a regular teenager who has merely become caught in something she can't control. I'm not much older than Kay, and I could identify with her very easily. Vaughn definitely had the teen mindset down. (There were times when I wondered if some things were overkill, such as her friend Tam's constant focus on sex, but I realized how clever it was as it came into play later on.)

The book is also fairly serious in tone, also unlike the Kitty books (for the most part). It is a story about a war, and that is very clear. I felt the portrayal of a country at wartime was very accurate. It's also a story about prejudices, and those, too, were well-defined and palpable. I do wish we could have seen more from the dragons' side, to have known their opinions on things, but since this was from Kay's perspective and thus the human point of view, I couldn't fault the book for that. I just wish we'd gotten more information on the dragons than we did.

I really liked how strong the characterizations were. Kay is strong, confident, and doesn't need guys to help her or any of that. (She does have her boyfriend, Jon, but more often than not, she's by herself, which was so nice to see.) Her friends Tam and Jon are sort of on the sidelines most of the time, but it was interesting to see elements of a teen novel mixing with straight fantasy like dragons. I was expecting a story set in the past (though I don't know why, since the cover wasn't exactly advertising that, with the tank top and all), so I was surprised to see it be a modern story. That was what I liked about it-- it showed how a war like this would be in modern times. Anyway, back to the characterizations: really nice to see a functional set of parents, for once. Kay's parents are competent and have important jobs, as her dad is the sheriff and her mom is part of border control. Artegal could have been used a little more, but I liked the bond between him and Kay the most.

I really enjoyed the story a whole lot. It's very plot driven-- there's more descriptions of events and such than dialogue-- but I like stories with plots. The story was also emotionally affecting; I laughed at a few points and cried at another. The ending is a bit of a cliffhanger, and I asked Vaughn via Facebook whether or not a sequel is on the way. She said there is an idea but it hasn't been written. If it is, I'll be first in line to buy it.

Highly recommended to young teens looking for a good fantasy, and older readers like me who either know the Kitty books or just have an interest in dragon-themed novels.


  1. So what do you think of the cover? It looks far too pretty/neat/mainstream/glamorous to fit with your description of the heroine and her adventures.

  2. Well, I actually really do like the cover-- as I said in the review, I wasn't expecting it to be a modern novel, though I should have from her (Kay's) clothes. Since it is a novel set in the modern day, I think it worked pretty well-- Kay's a teenager and it's something a teenager would wear (heck, I dressed in tank tops all the time in high school; I still do).

    I think the clothes fit who she is in the book-- she's an adventurous girl who enjoys to climb and such, so they put her in something vaguely athletic, like a tank top. The model for the cover pretty much matches the description of Kay in the book, which is usually more than an author can ask for. What it all boils down to is that even if Kay is having all these adventures, she's still just a teenager living in today's world, which is why I think the cover was drawn the way it is. It's also pretty distinctive from the normal teen novel covers out there. Nowadays, they're usually just random images (see the Twilight covers; a whole bunch of books are being reprinted and modeled on those, unfortunately) or headless/limbless people (see the Sarah Dessen books; I love her books, but her covers usually fall into the Faceless realm).