Middle Grade Fantasy by Susan Fletcher
Series: The Dragon Chronicles #3
My rating: ⭐️⭐️
On the whole, this series is incredibly uneven. This is the last instalment that I read, and it will remain so, as I picked up the fourth and found it such a bizarre departure that I lost interest about ten pages in. As is evidenced by my rating, I didn’t particularly care for this one either, but it certainly wasn’t a DNF, and my ratings go by Goodreads’s elaborations. Two stars = It was okay.
Chronologically, Sign of the Dove takes place several years after Dragon’s Milk, and it also takes after the first book in style and intent. Writing-wise, it’s a bit of a mess. Not so bad that I had to force myself to continue, but definitely a let-down after the writing had improved so much in Flight of the Dragon Kyn. Not only did the stilted Ye Olde High Fantasy Speak style of word choice and bad dialogue return, but there was the inclusion of a “harper’s tale” inserted between each chapter.
I was not a fan of the harper. He added next to nothing, his character is an obnoxious cliché, and the style of his chapters is so “Now hear ye, gentle listeners, as I, your amazing yet humble harper elucidate this grand and enchanting mystery.” The pomposity was stupid. If it weren’t for the point at which he exposited what happened to characters who’d been separated from the main character, he would have absolutely no reason to be there at all. Not that we even needed to know what those characters were doing.
There are also a few small but weird contradictions to continuity. This book is the story of Kaeldra’s second-sister Lyf. Like Kara, Lyf was saved from vermilion fever by dragon’s milk. For some reason, this gave her the ability to ken with birds, but when Lyf does it, the kenning is a dangerous thing that removes her self from her body and traps it in the bird. Their other sister is married, but not to the young man she granted her amulet in the first book. Lyf also makes no mention of an amulet of her own, which means that an entire aspect of the story world’s culture is just gone.
When Queen’s men come to the house looking for Kaeldra, who is in hiding, Lyf is determined to be in similar danger and so the grandmother sends Lyf to stay with Kaeldra. Thanks to her hand-wringing mother, Lyf believes herself too weak to do or be responsible for anything. When she arrives, she won’t just be sheltered and coddled. The rest of the dragons are hatching, and Kaeldra works with a kind of underground network that identifies itself by a dove sign to get the draclings out of the world.
Lyf is left on her own to help in this goal. Indeed, she finds herself responsible for more then ten draclings as well as her small nephew. She has to learn to depend on herself and not look to others to take care of her. She is forced to become something of a parent, and is not always successful. Things can get pretty dark, but the end is ultimately a happy one, although it’s a long time in coming.
I loved the theme of growing up. There are a lot of ways for a coming of age story to go, and this one does not shy away from failure, consequences, or just plain ill fortune. Lyf toughens up because she needs to, but she also continues to feel like what she is–a scared young girl–in the way that she keeps wishing for someone to step in and help her. She’s in her over head, and she knows it. She’s a great character, struggling without descending into whinging.
The pacing is good, Lyf’s nephew is actually a good example of a child character who is not a plot moppet or speaking piece of furniture, and the ending feels final in a nice, satisfying way.