Thursday, December 29, 2011

Review: Dragonswood

Janet Lee Carey
Paranormal Young Adult
416 pages
Available January 5th
Received for review through Teen Book Scene

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Wilde Island is in an uproar after the recent death of its king. The uneasy pact between dragons, fairies, and humans is fraying, and a bloodthirsty witch hunter with a hidden agenda whips villages into frenzies with wild accusations. Tess, a blacksmith’s daughter from a tiny hamlet near the mysterious Dragonswood, finds herself caught in the crosshairs of fate when she is accused of witchery and has to flee for her life along with her two best friends.

Not even Tess’s power to see the future can help the girls as they set off on their desperate journey, but she keeps having visions of a man wielding a sword. And when she finally meets him, Tess has no idea how to handle the magnetic attraction she feels for him, or the elusive call she hears from the heart of the Dragonswood.

In this epic romance, an ancient prophecy comes true in a way neither dragon, fairy, nor human would have predicted.

Beautifully crafted and atmospheric, Dragonswood is one of those stories we can see and feel clearly without a great deal of detailed description, the small town in which Tess resides and the mystical surrounding forest appearing easily in our minds as each word seems to have a corresponding frame for the moving picture taking place in our heads. Though we aren’t given much history with regard to the rather tenuous truce between dragon, human, and fairy, it doesn’t detract from our overall enjoyment of this tale, with the action taking place at present enough to capture our attention and hold it throughout. While fantasy elements dance across the pages in all their magical glory, we are truly anchored to the story through Tess—her pain, her desires, and her need to discover a place in the world she can call her own helping us connect on an emotional level that provides us with the comfort we require to open up our imaginations and let ourselves experience what Ms. Carey has written.

Tess has us in her corner from the first few paragraphs in the prologue, the unfortunate circumstances of her reality presented to us in blunt and raw fashion—facts only, with little drama or emotion to be found lurking beneath the black ink—and we find our hearts pounding in anticipation and hope that the concluding pages will paint us a happier picture than the opening ones. While Tess has intimate knowledge of the back of a man’s hand and the sound of his anger, she never loses hope that a better man than her father exists, and despite the recoil she occasionally experiences when Garth raises his arm or moves too suddenly, she never allows herself to be consumed by what was beaten into her. She is fiercely loyal and protective of those around her, constantly striving to help them find their happiness even at the cost of her own.

There are several things about Garth and Tess–as well as the dragons and fairies–that become obvious to us far before Tess even begins to entertain the possibility, however the story is interesting enough we still find ourselves enthralled. Events move rapidly at times and then slow back down to give us time to catch our breath before the next daring rescue, narrow escape, or emotional revelation, not drowning us in action nor boring us with too many quite moments but rather keeping a nice pace to guarantee our involvement every page and chapter. Sometimes the ease with which Tess and company achieve their goals tests the limits of believability, but ultimately our loyalty to the characters has us rooting for them strongly enough we don’t find it worth the effort to object to things working out in their favor.

Overall, Dragonswood will delight and entertain most readers, though fans of romance might find themselves wishing for just a bit more pay off between Garth and Tess after all the tantalizing tension sparking between them. That being said however, their relationship is one of sweet innocence and vulnerability as Tess opens herself up to Garth in a way she thought had been knocked out of her by violent touches where there should have only been loving ones, leaving us with a smile on our faces even though we long for more between the two of them. Readers who love adventure and light fantasy will no doubt relish the tangibility of this tale, finishing the last pages with an intense desire to read more of this world.

Rating: 4/5


  1. Oooh, I've been wanting to read this!

  2. Sounds good. The cover is so gorgeous. Glad this one seems well crafted even if the romance isn't perfect. When you wrote that the character is familiar with the back of a man's hand, it took me a minute to realize you didn't mean that literally. "Hmm...freckle here, scar there..." :-)

  3. This sounds amazing, Jenny! I love atmospheric books (which is why I like gothics so much), so this sounds like it's right up my alley. Definitely bumping this up my list now. :) Thanks for the great review!

  4. Aaahh, good to hear! I only just recently discovered this book on Goodreads and I'm excited to read it.

  5. Hm, Dragons, Faeries a little bit of sweet romance? I so want to read this one ever since I saw this fantastic cover! I read some lala reviews, so I'm happy to read yours!
    Must read for next year :))

  6. Dragons, fairies and humans, yes why not :D I like the mix. And I do like my fantasy

  7. Lisa - I really enjoyed it!

    Alison - HA! No, not that kind of intimately familiar, that would be much better than the way Tess knows it:(

    Wendy - Me too! I just loved the world she created even if things sometimes worked out a little too easily:)

    Chantaal - It had a different feel to it than a lot of the YA books I'd been reading, so it was a fun departure from those:)

    Danny - LOVE that cover:) It certainly had it's flaws, but what book doesn't? I would have loved more of a romance, but mostly just because I really loved both Tess and Garth and just wanted more of anything they could give me:)

    Blodeuedd - It was a fun combination of paranormal creatures:)

  8. Wow, this one looks beautiful! I'll be adding it to my wish list. Great review.

  9. I've been curious as to what this book is about. The cover is stunning and the premise sounds enjoyable despite its flaws. I'll see if I can get it at the library.

  10. I don't think I've heard of this book before, but it sounds pretty darn interesting. (except for the lack of romance) ;)

  11. I was super excited for this book because I love fantasy, but then I saw a so-so review and I'd figured maybe it wouldn't be as good as I was hoping. But now I'm thinking that maybe it WILL be really good! Thanks for the review, now I know to add it to my list for the library!

  12. I love high fantasy but light fantasy works for me too. I like the way you described the pacing with this one - it sounds like there's a good balance between some action and some more relaxed moments. Plus, dragons, fairies and humans in one world together? Yes, please!

    I also really like the cover though I don't understand why there are all these books with girls floating on them.

    Also, you mentioned that there isn't a lot of history. I thought I'd let you know it might be because this is a companion to Dragon's Keep.

  13. I was kind of torn on this one. I really liked the writing and the atmosphere, but I found it a bit slow for my tastes. And I didn't find Tess particularly special. Still, I enjoyed the book. Great review, as always, Jenny! :)

  14. Jennifer - The cover is stunning isn't it? I really liked the story too:)

    Rummanah - It's definitely enjoyable:) And the things that I considered flaws were pretty minor.

    Amanda - It was! I wanted a little more romance for sure, but I liked what was there:)

    Candace - It was good! Not blow-your-mind-amazing as there are some slower parts, but it was one of those books I just had fun reading and that's good enough for me:)

    Zahida - Gotcha. Didn't know this was a companion novel but that makes sense about the history. I certainly didn't feel lost in the story without it, I just was curious to know more!

    Lauren - It definitely had its slow moments, but I loved the setting and all the different character relationships. Sometimes Tess was a bit too self-sacrificing, but I liked her:)

  15. Oh, I love the sound of this one! I recall seeing it around, but I have't heard to much about it before, but it sounds like a great read. You make me very excited to read this and I'm definitely putting it on my wishlist! Great review. :)

  16. Jenny, I loved this book! Dragons, castles, magic it all made me a very happy reader! Love the review!

  17. I've been wanting to read this one. I have been craving dragons lately. Hm.. not sure that came out right, but this one sounds so good.

  18. The cover seems to set the tone of the book--dragons and faeries and humans--oh, my! And, though the romance isn't as epic as the tagline claims, it still sounds both enchanting and intriguing. Definitely putting this on my TBR.

  19. An interesting gathering of supernatural beings. I've only read one other dragon book so look like it's time for another. Although I usually like a more consistent fast pace, I think I'll give this a shot!

  20. This book wasn't even on my radar and now it is popping up everywhere. Your review sealed the deal it is a must read now!

  21. Rebecca - Oh good, I hope you give it a try! It just had a nice feel to it I thought:)

    Savy - I really enjoyed it too! Now that I know it's a companion novel, I definitely want to go back and read the first book:)

    Melissa - I've had a dragon craving lately too. Have you read the GA Aiken dragon series? Really good:)

    Mary - It definitely does, I adore that cover! The romance was in no way epic, but it was sweet and I can appreciate it just for that:)

    Alyssa - I'm really finding my dragon groove, I like that they're getting more prevalent. I think they're a fun species to read about:)

    Heidi - Yay! Glad the review was helpful:)

  22. Oooooh I can't WAIT dude!!! Dragonswood looks sooo freaking awesome! And seriously, am I the only one who thinks that the fact that his bane is Garth is super hot?

  23. It sounds like such a tantalizing mix of creatures and storylines that I just have to read it, light on romance or no. Great review! Thanks for the heads up about the romance.


  24. Like Wendy said above, I also love Gothic literature and books that can really create the kind of atmosphere that sucks you in. This one's going on my list! I hadn't heard of it til now, but it sounds like it's worth a read!

  25. I've been wanting to read this book for so long. Hopefully I'll get my hands on a copy soon. The cover is beautiful. Great review! I'm glad you loved it.

  26. I read a so-so review on this! I'm glad to see another opinion. I love the cover. It sounds very atmospheric. I'm adding it to my list! Great review :)

  27. ooohhh, this one sounds good! Always love to read your thoughts before I dive into the unknown :)

  28. The information in your article is incredible. Very good article.

  29. Dragonswood is a resource and magazine for Pagans of all paths and levels of experience.