Kathy (a.k.a. The Brain Lair) and I abandoned ship on World Without Heroes, and picked up Dragon Castle by Bruchac instead. Here, we discuss the first section of the book. My thoughts are in purple, with Kathy's responses in blue. Her blog hosts her thoughts, with my responses. Please feel free to chime in with your thoughts! There will be spoilers, so read with care.
Maria: I have only read one novel by Bruchac before – Code Talker. I absolutely love the book and I’ve used it several times in a reading group. I’ve also read one of his folk lore compilations. Both books impressed me with the simple yet powerful language. What could he do with a fantasy tale? I heard about this one and promptly added it to my list. When Kathy suggested we give this one a shot, I was excited. I was positive it would outshine World Without Heroes.
Kathy: This is my first Bruchac. His Code Talkers is sometimes used in 8th grade to work with students who don’t go on the annual Washington, DC trip. We have a few copies of The Warriors and Skeleton Man. Somehow I missed this one. Hope to remedy that when I get more money!
Maria: Introduction: Yes! I love the way the story begins – with the tapestry. I love the imagery of the moving shapes and how it never seems the same twice. I love the gold and black threads that outline the characters.
Kathy: I can almost - but not quite - picture it. The same way as Rashko. Bruchac gives us just enough information that our imaginations start to create pictures. Great imagery.
Maria: Structure: I love the way the two stories interweave throughout the first third of the book. I love this style of storytelling, though I always find it challenging to keep both sets of names straight at first. In fact, this is a book that I actually wish I had not gotten for my Kindle app. I kept wanted to page back and forth to double check on things, and that is much harder to do electronically. I think Bruchac has done a good job so far keeping the past story segments brief – and he always leaves one timeline with me eager to return to it to learn more. That’s good craft, in my mind.
Kathy: I like that the two story lines have different voices. The immediacy of what’s happening to Rashko as Baron Temny tries to take over balances out the patience needed by Pavol to wait for...something. I also like that he gave a chapter to each boy before actually starting with Chapter 1!
Maria: Magical Touches: The magic in the realm is done with a light touch. That matches well with this story, I think. I love stories with lots of complex magic, but this one is just right too. I like the way Paulek (Ugh, thanks... Rashko) talks to the wolves in his mind, and his brother seems to lack the ability. I like how they calmly mention Paulek’s (you mean Rashko) special abilities (like creating the grove of trees). His brother seems so nonchalant about it. I love the hints of the fairy folk and the bits about dragons.
Kathy: I want to touch on Paulek’s seeming nonchalance. It seems like the family knows more about Rashko’s abilities than he does. Bruchac seemed to hint at the family member’s abilities - tall tales by Rashko’s way of thinking - and again after the tree incident he points out that all the family looked at Rashko with a slight knowing in their gazes. Can’t wait to see what that means.
Maria: Ugh, yes... I kept checking the names but I still got it wrong! Is this, perhaps, a problem I have with first person narratives? I need to keep that in mind as I write my own fiction.
Maria: Writing style: This is refreshing compared to the last book. There is beautiful language, and lots of imagery, but it never seems to be the POINT of the writing. The writing is lovely, but it doesn’t interfere with the story. I loved phrases like “small confused group of their servants huddled like chickens that have seen the fell shadow of a hawk” (pg. 4) and how Paulek talks about the fact that his brother and parents got in line behind hummingbirds for the brains (pg. 9). It’s not overdone, just lovely and entertaining.
Kathy: YES! I mentioned this too! It’s amazing what a skilled writer can do! They make you simultaneously forget the words and revel in the cleverness. You get the pictures they create and you can admire how they did it. Skill and storytelling are a great combination.
Maria: Female characters: Okay, so this book doesn’t really have any. There is just the one evil princess, and I’m not convinced she’s a human woman. I can live with that, though. I don’t mind books heavy on male characters. That’s better than poorly done girls and women.
Kathy: But we shouldn’t give up hope yet! Although yes, Poteshenie does not seem human, maybe someone comes later to save Paulek from ruin. I also agree that I’d rather have male characters than stereotypical female characters!
Maria: I’m so curious about several things:
What is the deal with the discussion of the intermarriage of fairy and human? It has been mentioned several times, and I want to know who we’ve met so far who is a half breed. We have to have one in the story already, right? I have my guess already!!
I love how they mention that Pavol “hides” by being seen as simple. He’s more than he appears. So I know there must be more to the king, queen, and brother than meets the eye. EXACTLY!!!!!!!! I love that Rashko can’t see it because he’s busy protecting them from everyone!
I am dying to read the next section. Pavol’s bag and his growing skills intrigue me. The bits about the fairy folk intrigue me. I want to know about the dragon, darn it! Guess what, you don’t actually have to stop reading! Just add a page break and continue putting your thoughts down!!! We can keep going and just post once a week!
I’m already much happier with this book, and I’m glad we jumped ship and headed over to this one. I am eager for the next section instead of dragging myself through it. Amen, sister!