Villain Keeper: The Last Dragon Charmer, Book 1
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Villain Keeper, the first book in debut author Laurie McKay's middle-grade fantasy Last Dragon Charmer series, lands two 12-year-olds from a magic kingdom in many perilous situations. In Asheville, North Carolina, an adult stabs a kid; another kid's been kidnapped; and creepy characters abound, but so do the laughs as the tween prince and sorceress deal with villains who've murdered thousands in their world. They also deal with the perils of the foster care system and middle school. The story's off to a promising start in this installment, as very different characters become friends, work together, and pool unexpected talents. Courage, kindness, and honesty are strong themes, but the young characters disobey their guardians and steal things when they think it's necessary for their quest.
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What's the Story?
When his father sends him off in the dead of night to slay a dragon, 12-year-old Prince Caden of Razzon proudly embarks on the quest with his noble steed, Sir Horace. But things quickly go awry, and Caden and Sir Horace land in Asheville, North Carolina, along with Caden's childhood playmate Brynne, a sorcerer in training. In these quaint surroundings, they're soon dealing with unwelcome attention from the authorities and learning the mysterious ways of middle school. Far more alarming: Many of the locals prove to be vicious criminals from Caden's world, held (barely) in check by the power of the mysterious VILLAIN KEEPER.
Is It Any Good?
At first, Villain Keeper seems like a fairly standard fantasy outing (although one with entertaining snarky dialogue), but it soon reveals unexpected charms. Caden's unease grows as much of what he's taken as truth his whole life turns out to be anything but, and he struggles to do the honorable thing in situations he never imagined. Caden and Brynne's character flaws wreak comic havoc as they work on their magical skills, causing their pal Tito much grief along the way. The redoubtable steed Sir Horace is bold and entertaining; most of all, there's the memorable Ms. Primrose, whose complex relationship with Caden is intriguing. The story moves along at a fast clip, with flashbacks as Caden recalls his kingdom's past from new perspectives. Many kids will get the giggles from Caden's tragicomic adventures in middle school.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about why stories about characters from other worlds landing in ours are so popular. What's the appeal? What other characters do you know who find themselves in this situation?
What other stories do you know that involve dragons? Are they always about slaying the dragon, or do things take a different turn?
If the teachers at your school were all hiding a secret identity, what do you think they'd be?
- Author: Laurie McKay
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Friendship, Horses and Farm Animals, Middle School
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Harper
- Publication date: February 3, 2015
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 352
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: July 12, 2017
Our Editors Recommend
Dragon tale is great for bedtime read-aloud.
Handbook for Dragon Slayers
Exciting medieval adventure with brave teens and dragons.
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
Unusual, compelling tale sends girl, readers on grand quest.
For kids who love adventure and fantasy
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