Friday, January 5, 2018

The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart (Stephanie Burgis)

The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart
Stephanie Burgis
Bloomsbury
Fiction, CH Fantasy
**** (Good)


DESCRIPTION: The young dragon Aventurine cannot stand being cooped up in the family caverns for another minute, let alone the thirty years Mother says it'll take for her scales to properly harden. It's a dangerous world out there, especially with humans all too ready to shoot arrows, muskets, and even treacherous magic at a body. Cave-bound days are when young dragons are supposed to discover and pursue their passions - philosophy for her brother Jasper, epic poetry for her sister Citrine - but Aventurine hasn't found hers... and is sure it can't be found in the smothering safety of the caves. She's a dragon, fiercest beast in the land, not some weakling little worm!
When she escapes to prove that she can take care of herself, Aventurine discovers her passion... but at a cost. The human she was about to devour tricks her into drinking a strange, sweet liquid: hot chocolate. She falls instantly in love with the concoction. Unfortunately, the man was a food mage, and laced the drink with transformative magic, turning her into a human girl. She may have lost her scales and wings and fire, but a dragon she still is at heart - and that heart now belongs to chocolate. She sets out to the city of Drachenberg to apprentice herself to a chocolatier. But Aventurine has a lot to learn about the world, and even a dragon's heart can be broken.

REVIEW: With a twelve-year-old protagonist, The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart falls in a bit of a gray area between older children's fiction and younger middle-grade fiction. I chose to rate it as the former, a sweet-hearted story of hope and despair and friendship and finding oneself after losing everything (not to mention dragons and chocolate); as the latter, it feels a bit thin, especially compared to other middle-grade fantasies (although well-sweetened with dragons and chocolate.) Aventurine's a dragon through and through, a strong-headed girl full of impulsive fire and impatience with fools - including herself, when she behaves foolishly, a feedback loop that leads to her lowest point. Other characters generally have just enough depth to support their places in the plot, though a few seemed underutilized by the end. There's a little about the making of chocolate around the edges, though it's more about Aventurine proving herself as girl and dragon. The ending's almost a little too neat, though the target audience will likely enjoy it.
For children, especially those who love dragons and chocolate (and are looking for a good heroine), The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart is a delightful read with just enough tooth and peril (but not too much.) For grown-ups, it's a fun little confection one won't regret indulging in, even if it doesn't linger overlong on the palate.

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Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher (Bruce Coville) - My Review
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Dragon Girl (Jeff Weigel) - My Review

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