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Dragon’s Keep – by Janet Lee Carey

November 14, 2011

Dragon's KeepDragon’s Keep is one of those books whose plot has the potential to be interesting and unique, but which fails to quite live up to that potential. It comes maddeningly close to something real and profound, but barely scratches the surface. It desperately wants to say something about prejudices and fear and war, but never quite gets past the obvious. It could have been fascinating but ends up being fairly mundane.

Rosalind is a princess whose destiny was foretold six centuries ago. She is supposed to restore peace and redeem her family name, but she also has a secret curse. She was born with a dragon claw in place of one of her fingers. Her mother has devoted herself to keeping Rosalind’s flaw a secret and to helping her fulfill her destiny by marrying Prince Henry and bringing peace to England. But on Wilde Island, where Rosalind lives, a different kind of war persists: one between the humans and the dragon which regularly carries villagers away for its feast. Rosalind may have the key to ending that war, but does she have the courage to try?

I have two problems with this book. One is that the main character doesn’t have much of a distinctive personality. She’s pretty basic: a princess with a predestined future, mildly rebellious but not in a serious way. She’s not perfect, but she doesn’t have any real flaws either. My other problem is the pacing. The book is supposedly about Rosalind’s relationship with the dragons and her role in the conflict between humans and dragons, but the dragon-centric part of the plot doesn’t really get started until about halfway through the book.

There’s a lot of time spent during the first half with Rosalind’s mother’s attempts to cure her and Rosalind’s friendship with her lady’s maid, but my interest didn’t really pique until the dragon did more than just carry off the occasional villager and Rosalind’s love interest showed up. Their relationship could also have used some more development, however. Again, there were some interesting elements there, but because of the pacing problem, they were largely skimmed over. Because so much time was spent setting everything up in the beginning, the meat of the story had to be crammed into the second half. It’s a perfectly fine story for fans of fantasy and dragons, but I wish it had done more with the concepts it presented.

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