Currently I'm a librarian and before that I was an archaeologist, a journalist, and definitely a bit of a world traveler. I tend to mostly read science fiction and fantasy, though I do love a good mystery and I'm a bit of a book dabbler overall. I've been doing Goodreads for awhile, but a friend thought I might enjoy this as well. Let's see, yeah?
I've really enjoyed the Kitty the Werewolf books that Carrie Vaughn writes, so I was curious as to what her other work is like.
The premise of this one sounded really promising -- I love alternate history kinds of books and who doesn't like dragons? So, basically, after World War II, dragons emerged from deep in the earth where they'd been hiding. There was a war where humans were losing and dragon casualties were high, so the two species created a peace treaty where dragons took over the northern parts of the world and neither species crosses into the other's territory. There are no continued relations.
This story starts a couple generations later in a small Wyoming border town. People have dragon raid drills and continue to be very nervous that the dragons might attack again. People don't really seem to think of dragons as rational beings, despite the fact that communication and treaty making was possible in the past. I'd like to say this tested my suspension of disbelief -- but it doesn't. It's far too easy for people to idealize the "Other" into some strange threat that defies logical thought. We do it all the time within our own species, so why wouldn't we do it with another?
I believe this is Vaughn's first young adult novel and, like many adult authors that make the leap, there are some issues with the writing style... Though, I'm not a hundred percent sure that they all arise from trying the YA field. To me, the story felt far too simplistic at first -- not in the way that I've seen adult authors do when writing YA where they seem to dumb everything down, as if teens need to be spoon fed with the simplest words. Rather, the story itself just seemed a bit one dimensional. There wasn't enough richness to really make me believe, even though there weren't any holes to make me doubt.
The main character, Kay, suffered from this one dimensionality in the beginning, too. It seemed as if, for the first few chapters, that her only defining characteristic is that she felt rebellious and really wanted to remind herself that she was... Luckily, she started becoming a more real character later on. I also appreciate that she wasn't part of any love triangle and, though there was a love interest, the book wasn't populated with smoldering glances and heavy make-out sessions in the midst of harrowing situations.
The latter half of the book (except for maybe the end -- then again, most people don't utilize their community resources as well as they could) was much better and I didn't want to put it down. Basically, I read the first half of the book as chapter here, a chapter there in the middle of reading and doing other things. The last half I read all in one go in a very short amount of time because it sucked me in so much better.
In some ways the book feels more like a prequel of things to come -- but in that good way where you can envision your own future for the world. The explanations for hows and whys were low, but not necessarily needed.
I think Vaughn was very even with her portrayals of people -- they reacted much as real people do and for every bigot or unreasonable person in a group, there is someone else of that group to show another side. There was definitely a theme about not judging people by stereotypes, but it wasn't delivered in a heavy handed way. The only slightly heavy handed bit had to do with some of the losses...
The other theme is that people can make a difference -- even if you're not an adult yet. That's always an important message to get out there.
At any rate, while I did not enjoy this as much as the Kitty books, I will definitely give some of Vaughn's other work a shot.