Book Review: Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George (Bloomsbury – 2007)

Dragon Slippers is the first of a trilogy that I’ll be reviewing over the next three months. It’s YA literature, though extremely well-written despite the bad rap YA lit sometimes gets. George doesn’t stint on description, providing some beautiful imagery (I’ll spend a bit more time on this in my review of the third book).

Dragon Slippers follows Creel who dreams of owning a seamstress’s shop in the capital. Her plans are very suddenly interrupted when she learns she’s to be sacrificed to a dragon by her only somewhat well-meaning and very eccentric aunt. Creel decides to bargain instead, winding up with a pair of magical shoes and a precarious position in the center of a war brewing in the very heart of the kingdom.

One of the things that makes this book really shine is the odd take on dragons. In appearance, they seem like your typical European-style dragons. However, while these dragons have hoards, their hoards are all particular to their personalities. Theoradus hoards shoes; Shardas collects stained glass. Another dragon keeps dogs.

When I read this book, it surprised me that very few authors I’ve read have ever taken into account so much of personality. Patricia C. Wrede in Dealing with Dragons is one: where some particular interests are mentioned in regard to things some of the dragons collect. Wrede is a bit more multi-faceted with her dragons, in that they don’t just hoard one thing. However, seeing as George is writing for children I can’t fault her too much for her choice to be so specific. Furthermore, the tendency of each dragon to choose a single item appears throughout the story to have cultural roots.

Culture in fantasy is something very important to me. It tells a lot about a nation and the characters who live in it, much as our cultures in real life do for us. Because of the great attention to the development of character and culture, Dragon Slippers transcends the bounds of its target audience to be a novel people of any age can enjoy.

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