Release Date: June 2012
Genres: YA, Fantasy
Dragontamer’s Daughters: Part I: Pearl by Kenton Kilgore
“To-Ho-Ne calls Mama ‘Princess, ‘” Alijandra whispered. “If she’s a princess, doesn’t that make us princesses, too?” “We aren’t princesses,” Isabella whispered. “Princesses live in palaces, not…not here.” “Here” is the unforgiving high desert in the Old West of an alternate Earth. Isabella-who is almost 13 years old-and her sister Alijandra-who is almost 8-scratch out a meager life with their parents. Their home is a shack deep in the lands of the Diheneh, the indigenous people, far from the family’s former country of Ysparria.
Isabella dimly remembers a better time, years before, when they were rich and respected because their father caught, tamed, and trained dragons for Ysparria’s armies. But now their father is an outlaw who spends many weeks away from home on futile efforts at prospecting. Their mother, aided by the old native woman who raised her, struggles to grow food, earn money, and keep Isabella and Alijandra safe.
Into their lives comes a small, wingless dragon from far away. Finding the dragon near death after a fight, the girls take it home and begin tending it back to health. Alijandra calls the dragon “Pearl,” after its tiny white eyes. While Pearl heals, the family begins to learn where the dragon came from, as well as the strange and terrifying powers it possesses. As the family ponders what to do with Pearl, they learn that the hunt for the former dragontamer has intensified. At the same time, Pearl grows more and more compelled to complete the mysterious journey that brought her to these lonely lands.
Kenton Kilgore has written an imaginative novel that younger readers may find appealing. The novel is lengthy, approximately 600 pages and is broken down into two separate books. I’ve just finished Part I: Pearl, which takes readers into a fantasy world where empires rely upon the mystical gifts of dragons to protect their lands from enemy invaders. The plot centers around the family of former well-respected dragontamer, Thad Anerson and his family who were once prominent members of Ysparrian society. Now, for reasons yet to be revealed, Anerson and his family have fled Ysparria and are secretly living in the remote desert among the indigenous Diheneh people. The family has assumed false names to protect them from the Ysparrian government whose army is actively searching for Anerson because he is wanted for murder.
Living conditions are harsh for the Anerson family, and Thad is often away from home searching for a way to support his family. Kilgore spends much of the book painting a verbal picture of what life is like for the Anerson sisters, Isabella or “Bella” who is twelve, and little Alijandra or “Ali” who is seven-years-old. They are the central characters whose thoughts and actions are at the heart of the story. The daughters are well-behaved and strive to be obedient and helpful to their mother and caretaker, To-Ho-Ne. To-Ho-Ne affectionately refers to the mother as “Princess,” and the girls can’t help but wonder if their mother is, indeed, descended from royalty. Much about their former life in Ysparria is kept secret, and I’m so curious to find out what circumstances have led them to this point in their lives.
Kilgore has taken great pains to develop the main characters within the family and all of them are well-rounded with distinct personalities, and each character plays an important role in the story. While Thad is away from home, it is up to the females to maintain their home and keep food on the table. I like that the author has created strong female role models who are emotionally strong and nurturing to the two young sisters. The mother teaches her daughters how to be resourceful, and To-Ho-Ne passes down the ceremonial legacy and traditions of her native people to aid the daughters as they mature into capable young women.
Bella and Ali are very close, and they have their moments of bickering and conflicts typical of siblings. They also serve as character foils to one another. Bella is the oldest, takes her responsibilities very seriously, and her mood is often somber. She doesn’t want to do anything to disappoint their mother. In contrast, Ali is outgoing, gregarious, and tiny bit of rebellious, even though her intentions are good. Ali embraces life and sees the good in everyone. She is delightful, and she quickly stole my heart as she tends to and bonds with a tiny dragon, on the verge of death, which the family rescues following a deadly storm. Despite her mother’s protests, Ali affectionately names the dragon, Pearl and frequently puts her own safety at risk to do what she can to help the dragon heal.
Part One of the book is dedicated to world-building and character development which primarily drives the plot. Kilgore also introduces the mysteries that I hope will be revealed in the second book, Stormcaller. Pearl’s appearance in the desert is highly unusual and she is unlike any dragon anyone has ever seen. The powers she exhibits are rare and powerful, so much so that the mother is reluctant for her daughters to be around this fearsome dragon that has the capability to cause serious physical harm. Yet, Ali refuses to be deterred, determined to convince everyone that this little magical dragon is friendly and will keep them safe. Everyone is curious about Pearl’s journey so far from her native homeland and where her final destination will be. I look forward to finding out the connection between Pearl and the Dragontamer’s family. In addition, I anticipate that the drama and danger will ratchet up several notches now that a mysterious dragon killer is also hunting the Dragontamer for reasons still unknown. The themes of the book reinforce the importance of family, tradition, love, and acceptance of those who differ from us and our expectations.
Dragontamer’s Daughters is Kenton Kilgore’s first novel. He earned a B.A. in English Literature at the University of Maryland College Park, where he concentrated in creative writing, mythology, and medieval English. He earned an M.A. in English Literature at Washington College in Chestertown, MD. He and his family live in Stevensville, MD with too many dogs and cats.
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Click on the book cover to purchase Dragontamer’s Daughters, Part I: Pearl
Dragontamer’s Daughters, Part II: Stormcaller