While many people in the realm have magic—some can breathe underwater, sense people’s thoughts, or talk to animals— dragon children are rare. Unlike eye-color, wings aren’t inherited. No one can predict when or to whom a dragon child will be born. Their rarity means they are destined to rule. Rhinen and his older brother, Laeb are born with dragon wings, thus assuring their place on the throne. Laeb, the eldest has a clear path. When the next dragon king steps down, he will take his place. Younger brother Rhinen—well, no one knows exactly what to do with Rhinen.
Meanwhile, a rebellion is brewing…
All children of the realm are tested for magical abilities on their fifteenth birthday. Those with magic—the Shaynen—continue in school, and those who don’t—the Klor—enter a life of service. The magic-born rule and those without magic are second class citizens. That’s how it’s always been. Until now.
Rhinen’s easy life changes drastically when he is kidnapped by a group of rebels intent on bringing justice to the Klor people. In captivity, Rhinen meets Haia, a young dragon-girl. Together they discover a secret that could change everything, but first, Rhinen and Haia have to escape.
Plot: L.B. Lillibridge's Dragon Brothers stands as an uncommonly wise and empathetic fantasy, an adventure story whose royal heroes prevail not through heroic violence but by listening, questioning, and daring to upend the inequitable caste system that rewards them but punishes others. That heartening narrative, though, doesn't surge along the way the best fantasy adventures might, and the story develops little narrative momentum or continuity from chapter to chapter. The continual capturing and rescuing of hostages between the novel's two castes, the Shaynen and the Klor, feels repetitive rather than like suspenseful escalations.
Prose/Style: Lillibridge excels at dialogue scenes, at the stirrings of conscience inside her characters, and at the invention and depiction of magic. Sometimes her paragraphs run long and lose some focus, detailing action after action without fully emphasizing any particular one. She knows her characters' hearts and gets them onto the page, but Dragon Brothers doesn't always tap into those characters' desires and fears for storytelling momentum.
Originality: "Dragon born" fantasy characters aren't new, of course, and stories of royal succession and rebellion in fantasy kingdoms have been familiar for centuries. But Lillibridge invests her fantasy with fresh, appealing characters, engaging moral dilemmas, and an inventive blend of science and magic. Especially welcome is the book's humanistic bent in an age of darker and darker fantasy books for younger readers. Flying, here, feels truly magical.
Character Development: Lillibridge’s dragon brothers are humble, big-hearted, and immediately appealing, as are the dragon toddler Haia, the apprentice Laney, and the sympathetic outlaw Rory. The adults are somewhat less vividly drawn, but, encouragingly, prove capable of change when the young people argue against longstanding injustice.
Date Submitted: April 02, 2020
Having proven herself to be a master of both memoir and parenting writing, L.B. Lillibridge set her sights on children’s fantasy and, with Dragon Brothers, has conquered yet another genre. As a fellow writer, I can’t help but admire and resent how good this book is, and I say, “Enough all ready! Can’t you leave the rest of us anything?” Seriously, L.B. Lillibridge must be stopped. --Jon Etter, author of A Dreadful Fairy Book
“Lillibridge's brightly imagined, diverse world is filled with high-stakes adventures, sparkling magic, and thoughtful storytelling that kept me turning pages well after my bedtime. Readers of all ages will fall in love with this engrossing story.” –Kaitlyn Sage Patterson, author of the The Alskad Empire Chronicles