A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Lisa McMann's Dragon Captives: The Unwanteds Quests, Book 1 is the first book in an Unwanteds spin-off series. While the author does spend ample time catching up readers on what happened in the original Unwanteds series, this world of island realms, magic spells, and animal-stone hybrids will seem more immersive if you read the original Unwanteds series first. As the title suggests, dragons are held captive in this story, as are the main characters: three 12-year-olds who rush off to rescue them in secret, endangering themselves and the adults who must come rescue them. These tweens nearly fall into an abyss on the journey and are kidnapped, imprisoned, and nearly sold as slaves. One of their rescuers almost drowns and barely misses being crushed to death. One character is missing and presumed dead, and many soldiers are crushed and blasted by fire. Bravery and teamwork are important in Dragon Captives, and characters need to learn to trust their own abilities and strengths.
What's the story?
In DRAGON CAPTIVES, when an ice-blue dragon named Hux comes to Artime asking for help, it's big news -- especially to 12-year-old twins Fifer and Thisbe, who are desperate for some excitement. They want to learn magic but are told by their brother Alex, the ruler of Artime, that they are still too young and too dangerous with their natural talent. Alex also thinks it's too dangerous to help Hux beyond making him new wings to replace the ones he's outgrown. Hux begs Alex to accompany him to the secret land of the dragons to fix the wings of his siblings and free them from captivity. An evil kingdom has threatened to hurt his sister if he doesn't return. When Alex says no, Fifer and Thisbe think this is their chance to show everyone that they can be the heroes and are ready to learn magic. First they sneak in to watch Alex make Hux's wings so they know the proper spell. Then they convince Hux to take them and their friend Seth into their secret realm. It's not long before the young trio realizes that this rescue mission is much more perilous than they expected.
Is it any good?
Falling into the trap of many spin-off series, this book gives a recap of the last series for way too long and only feels like its own, intriguing animal toward the end. Add to that the tendency of middle-grade series to try to be fat fantasies à la Harry Potter, and sometimes the story just drags out to fill pages. About halfway through Dragon Captives we get this gem: "Everyone had unanswered questions running through their minds, but Fifer and Seth followed Thisbe's lead and didn't say much about what they were doing or why they wanted to do it." Which may lead many readers to think to themselves, "How about when everyone decides to do something, you pick up the story from there?"
Once you get through all the recapping and indecision, though, the excitement builds. How can you go wrong with dragons and magic, really? It could have been better with an early introduction of the ultimate baddie we only hear about in hushed tones, the Revinir, but there's plenty of kidnapping and peril before she shows up and lots to like about the characters as they must grow up quickly and face a lot more obstacles than they bargained for. Here's hoping this long setup leads to an invigorating series.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about using power wisely in Dragon Captives. Why doesn't Thisbe try to escape with her most powerful magic when she's taken? Why don't the dragons attack all the soldiers in their way?
What do you think of Alex's decision to not let the twins learn magic early? Does it remind you of rules you have at home that you don't like? Why do you think Alex made that decision?
Will you read more of the Unwanteds Quests series? If you haven't read the first Unwanteds series, will you now?
- Author: Lisa McMann
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Brothers and Sisters, Friendship
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Aladdin
- Publication date: February 7, 2017
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 432
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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