by Brian Davis
Conditional Recommendation: A boy discovers that he’s part dragon and with his family and friends, is thrust into a millennia-long struggle between slayers and dragons.
Genre: Christian Fantasy
I would’ve loved this book as a kid. It has the perfect blend of realism and fantasy in a world where dragons, humans, and God all exist together. This adventure is jam-packed with exciting and suspenseful scenes with likeable characters who value family, friendship, and heritage.
A boy with fiery breath . . . a girl with dragon wings . . . Outcasts Billy and Bonnie must come together to preserve a secret legacy more than a millennium in the making. They find their lives turned upside down when they are thrust into a war against evil, a war they didn’t even know was being waged. Their newly formed friendship is tested and shaped as they are forced to fight a malevolent slayer who wields a powerful, medieval weapon and is intent on exterminating their dragon heritage forever. Raising Dragons is a hair-raising, modern-day Arthurian adventure and a glimpse into another world filled with knights, dragons, and fair maidens fighting to destroy evil.
*Some spoilers ahead!*
Billy – The half-dragon boy with the ability to breathe fire, Billy is the central character though we do jump into the perspectives of other characters as the story goes on. Once he learns about who he is and who his father is, Billy struggles a lot with trusting his parents again and even believing that there’s not only this secret history of God, dragons, King Arthur, Merlin, and knights but also that there’s an ongoing struggle and prophecy that he’s a part of. His struggle is honest and isn’t resolved in a quick fix, which I appreciate. Billy is really likeable because he’s good-natured, has a true sense of right and wrong, and endeavors to be a good friend.
Bonnie – The half-dragon orphan girl with wings and the ability to fly who seems to be a Christian and who wants a family and friends—good people to belong to. She and Billy’s friendship is a true, non-romantic, but deeply committed and loving relationship. We’ll see if their relationship develops in later books, but for now, it’s only a really great friendship. They are willing to sacrifice for each other, protect each other, listen and bear one another’s burdens.
Walter – Walter is Billy’s longtime school friend and though they have a goofy friendship at first, it develops into a strong bond built on loyalty, care and trust. Walter suspects and witnesses the strangeness of Billy and Bonnie but he doesn’t confront them about it. He peacefully remains their friend, content to help and be useful when needed but not needing to have all the answers. It’s not that he isn’t curious but he has this overall contentedness about him that allows him to accept the strangeness in light of the bigger priority of friendship. I think this is a character quality rarely seen in fiction, much less middle grade fiction.
If you haven’t picked up on it already, the two major themes of this book are family and friendship, with friendship taking the crown. I love that all the adventures the kids get into also involve their families and other caring adults. So often in middle grade fiction, kids go off on their own journey at a young age, which is fine, but it’s really nice and more realistic perhaps that the family is involved. This book displays healthy family relationships, even with Billy’s trust issue from his parent’s keeping his dragon heritage a secret. And the friendships between the three kids is so wholesome. No pettiness or ridiculous drama. Parents discuss things and include the kids in problem solving. There’s a great deal of teamwork and team mentality with this group of characters and I love it.
Bible verses, concepts, and principles are sprinkled throughout the book and there’s a lot of talk about having faith. As far as the gospel, toward the end of the book, Walter reads Bonnie’s words: “Jesus said, ‘If the Son shall set you free, you shall be free indeed.’ Glorious freedom! Oh, let my heart ever be unshackled! My body, my words, and my thoughts are all His. I freely set my heart in His hands, and I have no other true love.” Though nothing is explained, this seems to lean toward “giving your life to Christ” rather than accepting what Christ did for you on the cross by faith.
Once the plot picks up the pace, it stays at a steady run through most of the book! There was a lot more suspense than I was expecting too. The plot is interesting and engaging—middle graders will certainly enjoy it.
It ends with hope, but also clearly as the first book in the series!
In this tale of a reality where God, His Word, humans, knights, and dragons exist together the author also includes King Arthur and Merlin who are depicted as being believers in God, and Merlin is described “the prophet of the Most High” and not a wizard. Some of King Arthur’s knights have become zealots in fighting dragons and believe that dragons are wicked and it is their duty in a holy crusade to rid the earth of them. In fact, dragons are like humans in that there are some bad and some good, some who are godless and some who respect God. In order to escape their extinction by the knights, the dragons ask Merlin to help them transform into humans. It’s explained that this way of escape, if accepted by faith, will work as promised by God. Fantasy and biblical concepts are interwoven in this story.
There’s quite a bit of the kids being in peril at the hands of adults more powerful than them, violence—people being burned to a crisp, sword fights, crossbows, gun shots—threatening, and some mildly descriptive wounds such as Billy being scalped by a sword.
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