J’s Take on Dragon Keeper by Carole Wilkinson

Dragon Keeper Cover
At first this seemed like a typical dragon book. A orphan who’s about 10 is caring for some captive dragons. One talks to her telepathically. She escapes with him and this dragon stone. Yawn, ho-hum. It’s even set in ancient China, which is about what you’d expect once you rule out a straight fantasy world setting.

Fortunately it got more interesting than that. The dragon is more like an eccentric grandfather than say an intellectual military dragon like Temeraire or a more beast-like military dragon a la Pern or a fighting pit dragon in Jane Yolen’s awesome series. Wait, I’m sensing a fighting trend here. Well, what I mean to say is the dragon is different from some of the more popular dragons out there today (and yesterday). He can even appear to change form, which you don’t see very often.

Ping, the orphan, is okay as a character. She’s a girl, so that’s nice. She’s not dumb, but.. she’s really dumb about this one thing, and that’s the dragon stone. You all know what it is, right? As should anyone who’s ever encountered a dragon in a book before. And since there are dragons in several Harry Potter books, well, then who hasn’t? Yet she’s smart enough to figure out how to barter, though she’s never had money before or been to a market before.

There are some twists and turns and I can’t say I really knew where the story was going at any given moment. So all in all it was a fun read.

At the end is a glossary and a pronunciation guide. Glossaries I don’t mind missing, because I’d rather figure words out from context while reading. However, I would’ve liked the pronunciation guide at the front of the book. I was saying some of the names wrong in my head, and now they’ll always be wrong, because I won’t retain what I learned by reading the guide afterward. I got no practice at think-saying them right.

This book was also a nice change to the previous books, because while it was written by an Australian author, it wasn’t set in Australia. I suppose reading 12 books set in Australia or New Zealand shouldn’t really seem boring. Logically it shouldn’t. I read books set in America all the time. It wouldn’t be too surprising if I had a streak of books set in the UK going on. A lot of Triple Take books are set there. I’d read several manga set in Japan back-to-back without batting an eye. And it’s not like Triple Take books are all I read, so it wouldn’t be 12 books in a row, but.. still it does seem like it’d be monotonous. Too much novelty because I haven’t read many books set in Australia or New Zealand like.. at all, ever?

So, yea, ancient China, I can dig it. It’s a fantasy China, of course, what with the dragons and all.

Likeable characters, unpredictable story, fairly entertaining read, and as a bonus.. dragons!

Oh, and there’s also a rat. If you like that sort of thing. Rats, I mean.

Even though I probably won’t be putting it in my top ten list for books read in 2012, I’d still recommend this book without hesitation.

Ah… but this makes me sad. It would’ve been so good as a stand-alone novel. But we can’t have that these days, can we? Sadly, it’s a series. I see four books listed on her website. I’m not sure if I want to read them or not. The book was nice as it was. Then again, it could be interesting to watch Ping grow up.

Maybe I’ll see if my fellow Triple Takers are interested in reading them or not before I decide.