The premise of a preteen protagonist being thrust into a magical world will be familiar to seasoned fantasy readers, but Matthews puts his own stamp on it, focusing on the inner conflict of Bradley’s yearning to be respected and take action even as he feels terrified and weak. Unfortunately, the confusing power abilities and restrictions of different dragons and fae complicate an otherwise intriguing premise, and the dynamics of various alliances are briefly sketched or left for readers to puzzle over.
Teen readers will connect easily with Bradley’s quests to graduate from his safe but stifling childhood into a brave and active adulthood, master his panic attacks, and discover his passion. Those readers’ parents will appreciate the minimal violence, few and bloodless deaths (defeated fae vanish in a pop of light), and warmly present family. Bradley’s watchful mother, gruff father, clever aunt, and adorable younger sister are a pleasure to spend time with. A compelling cast of characters with rich backstories round out this fantastical story of a scared kid learning to stand up to bullies and be true to himself.
Takeaway: This good-hearted transformation fantasy about finding the strength to overcome fear will appeal to readers on the cusp of adolescence.
Great for fans of Sarah Nicolas's Dragons Are People, Too, Marc Secchia.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A