Title: Dragon Slippers
Author: Jessica Day George
Publication Date: March 27, 2007
Reading Level: Age 7 and up
Series: First of a series, followed by Dragon Flight and Dragon Spear
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) –
Many stories tell of damsels in distress, who are rescued from the clutches of fire-breathing dragons by knights in shining armor, and swept off to live happily ever after.
Unfortunately, this is not one of those stories.
True, when Creel's aunt suggests sacrificing her to the local dragon, it is with the hope that the knight will marry Creel and that everyone (aunt and family included) will benefit handsomely. Yet it's Creel who talks her way out of the dragon's clutches. And it's Creel who walks for days on end to seek her fortune in the king's city with only a bit of embroidery thread and a strange pair of slippers in her possession.
But even Creel could not have guessed the outcome of this tale. For in a country on the verge of war, Creel unknowingly possesses not just any pair of shoes, but a tool that could be used to save her kingdom…or destroy it.
This first came to my attention after a 7-year-old girl came to the library looking for books about dragons. Well, I’m not much of a dragon aficionado, my experience being limited to the movie Pete’s Dragon and the Eragon series (punch me in the face, those books are horrible) and that one of the Four Gods in Fushigi Yugi is a dragon (that show is actually pretty good – but I have a branch of anime-nerd in my geek pedigree. I refuse to be called an otaku, however). I know there’s an Anne-somebody-or-something that writes novels about dragons, but I didn’t think those appropriate for a young child of seven. So, one of the actual, proper librarians that isn’t an intern came to my rescue and suggested that I direct the girl to Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George. Not being one to recommend things without reading them (though I do trust this librarian’s advice), I decided to give this a shot.
And my goodness, was this a fun little story! (Yes, it merits an exclamation point!)
One of the things I love about this is how snarky the dragons are. There’s an exchange early in the book between Creel and Shardas about how the legends of the dragons as these mean, terrible and destructive creatures that keep defenseless maidens captive is a load of bunk and that dragons are more or less content to be left alone to hoard random objects in peace (one dragon collects shoes, another collects live dogs and even takes care of them. Take that, ASPCA!)
Special mention also must go to the character of Princess Amalia. Spoiled rotten and you just want to smack her upside the head – I was grateful that her guardian, the sensible and disciplined Duchess of Mordel, was also in many of the same scenes as Amalia just to balance out Amalia’s abrasiveness. That made Amalia bearable as Creel’s antagonist and also makes what she does later in the book not that surprising at all. Some terrible things do happen in this book as a result of Amalia’s greed (don’t want to spoil it for you – just give a heads-up), but nothing an astute 7-year-old couldn't handle.
Creel’s relationship with the dragons is especially endearing. Even though her aim is to open up her own dress shop, most of the time I just want her to run off and stay with the dragons. But she gets along well with many of the human characters as well, so it makes a good enough balance and a satisfying read. I did enjoy her interaction with Prince Luka and his mute bodyguard Tobin.
This is categorized as juvenile fiction, but I enjoyed it better than I have most juvenile fantasy lately. I even enjoyed it more than some YA or adult fantasy I've read. This would be great for a third grader – or even advanced second grade reader – to enjoy by themselves or with a parent (parents, if you want to hog it to yourself before you let the third grader in on the action, I would totally understand). But it’s refreshing to see juvenile fiction trust kids enough to deal with some of the serious things that happen in this book.
Bottom Line: Fun, fluffy read that is nevertheless satisfying and enjoyable.
Bonus Features: Shardas describes his lair as “bigger on the inside than on the outside.” That tickled my geek-senses.