The Dragon Egg Princess

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
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Exciting tale of dragons, friendship, and world-saving.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The narrative expects a reader who can handle words like "propaganda," "impenetrable," "malevolent," "grotesque," "amorphous," "anomalies," "matriarchal." Also concepts like "Lack of land and a growing population meant overcrowding and a scarcity of resources." Author Ellen Oh is a champion of diversity in books, and The Dragon Egg Princess is an appealing cultural mashup, dominated by a fresh take on Asian mythology, but blending in characters and stories from elsewhere in the world as an industrial society seeks to mow down a magical forest. Along the way there are details from Asian culture, like slurping bowls of noodle soup, and magical chopsticks that everyone can use perfectly on the first try (many of the teen characters have never seen them before). Characters die, and sometimes come back to life.

Positive Messages

Strong messages of courage, friendship, loyalty, and family (the ones you're born to and the ones you make for yourself). Also of finding a way to be true to who you are, even if you're not quite sure who that is just yet, and using your strengths and talents to help others.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Princess Koko, who discovers quite a lot about her relationship to the long-lost dragons, misses her parents desperately in the wake of being spirited away by magical forest dwellers, but remains with them to prepare for what they see as a bad time coming. Jiho, who comes from a long line of forest rangers and wants nothing to do with the profession after his father, as Jiho sees it, chooses the forest over his family. He proves a loyal, courageous friend who uses his knowledge and abilities to protect others. Micah, youthful leader of a bandit tribe with its own code of honor, agrees to do something she's pretty sure isn't right, but in order to save her brother, who's been kidnapped and imprisoned. Jiho's dad left his family, but he had a compelling reason. Assorted teen and adult characters show loyalty, courage, and wisdom. A villainous adult character smokes, and other villains are cruel and murderous.

Violence & Scariness

The story's events stem from an ancient conflict in which humans exterminated all the world's dragons. A villainous prince plans to murder his brother and seize power. Much of the violence is cartoonish in an anime/manga vein, lIk  spiderlike forest monsters devouring humans, mortal combat between humans and a giant praying mantis, battles involving magic, etc., but vivid and fearsome to the characters and the reader. Magic tends to win out over guns, explosives, and other human weaponry, but not before innocents are harmed or killed. Villains kill people, steal their "essence," and hit kids. Kids are kidnapped, imprisoned, and faced with death. A sibling goes over to the dark side and betrays his sister, who loves him and has gone to a lot of trouble to save him. Grief-stricken parents and their daughter are devastated by their separation. Characters die, and sometimes come back to life.

Language

Occasional "crap," "hell," "pee," "butt," "poop."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Dragon Egg Princess is a vivid, emotionally relatable tale by Ellen Oh about a lost princess, her mysterious connection to the long-extinct dragon race, and the brewing cosmic battle between a villainous magical being and the humans whose world she's determined to take over. The story is set in a forest protected by powerful spirits, through which human crews with lots of industrial equipment and zero clue what they're getting into intend to cut a road. A number of them are soon devoured by giant insects, various species of which pop up and continue their lethal ways throughout the story. Characters are struck dead by weapons and magical spells. A character grapples with the ethical dilemma of doing something wrong to save her kidnapped, imprisoned brother. Physical separation and other issues come between parents and their kids. Asian mythology and culture are at the forefront, as the teen/tween protagonists dream of dragons and frequent noodle shops, but characters come from many lands and have diverse life experiences that help define them.

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What's the story?

As THE DRAGON EGG PRINCESS opens, 5-year-old Princess Koko runs off to pursue a beautiful butterfly and soon finds herself surrounded by forest spirits who draw her deeper and deeper into magical woods, where she's lost to her parents and all who seek her. Five years later, the whole kingdom is falling apart as her grief-stricken parents are lost to despair and unable to rule -- which suits the king's evil half-brother just fine as he plans to kill them and seize the throne. If the princess is alive, no problem, he'll just kill her too. He's connected to a large construction crew from a highly industrialized neighboring kingdom, which plans to industrialize the magical kingdom and cut a road through the enchanted forest. Jiho, the 14-year-old descendant of a long line of forest rangers, knows this is a really bad idea, and struggles to keep his friends on the work crew safe. Meanwhile, Micah is a strong, honorable youthful leader of a bandit tribe who's forced to help the evil prince because he's kidnapped her beloved brother. When all their paths converge, their lives are changed forever.

Is it any good?

Ellen Oh spins a rich, compelling tale of teens and tweens whose lives converge in a magical forest as they work to save their world. As The Dragon Egg Princess gathers her allies in hopes of foiling evil forces trying to usurp her kingdom, the young characters face compelling challenges of self-discovery, newfound responsibility, and conflicting loyalties. Also powerful villains, treacherous family members, and monsters. There's no talk of further adventures for these characters, but they're so appealing that lots of readers would welcome a sequel.

Here, 14-year-old Jiho minces no words telling his newfound friends what they're up against:

"Calvin and Shane scooted closer to Jiho.

"'Those guys don't believe in hocus-pocus,' Calvin said. 'But we do.'

"Shane nodded, his eyes wide with old fears. "We're from Old Bellprix, the part that's not as modernized as our capital. They might never have seen a real monster before, but we have.' He shuddered. 'I once saw a neighbor who died from influenza rise up and walk the land again.'

"'And we've seen things that look like people kill and eat other people,' Calvin said. 'So when you said there are magical creatures in the forest, what we need to know is what kind of creatures are we talking about?'

"Jiho sighed. 'The kind that eat people.'

"'Crap,' Calvin said."

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about dragons and dragon lore in The Dragon Egg Princess. What other stories about dragons do you know and how do they compare? Why do you think people have been fascinated by these mythical creatures for so long?

  • Different characters in The Dragon Egg Princess struggle with family traditions and responsibilities -- and sometimes really want to part ways with them. Do you have friends who are pretty much expected to go into the family business, or go to the same college their parents attended, or be good at the same sports? How do they feel about it?

  • If you suddenly discovered you were a magical being instead of a regular human, do you think that would be a good thing or a bad thing? What might you do differently? What powers would you need to do it?

Book details

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For kids who love fantasy and multicultural books

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