Batty about Dragon Castle by Bruchac - Part 2

It's Friday - and you know what that means, right? Okay, yes, it means it's the end of the work week. It ALSO means the next installment of the always exciting, completely enthralling "Batty About Books"!

This week Kathy (aka The Brain Lair) and I discuss the second chunk of Dragon Castle by Bruchac. We are taking this book in three chunks, so we'll be wrapping it up next week. Be sure to stop by The Brain Lair for Kathy's thoughts and my responses - and come back next week for our thoughts on the ending.

Dragon Castle – Part 2

Maria: Overall, I’m still enjoying this book. Bruchac has a nice style, with serious events blended in with some humorous, tongue in cheek language.  It seems like he’s an author who can switch between genres well.  I’ve read his historical fiction account Code Talkers and an anthology of Native American folklore.

With that said, I had some things I liked in this section, some things that I wasn’t as excited about, and some guesses for the ending portion of the book.

“The Good”

I adore the crazy cat, Laska. The fact that the cat split into 7 large beasts to attack, and then was smaller once several had been killed was very cool. I like how Bruchac ties into some of the magical numbers (like with the 7 items in the pouch, and how he wraps the tie 7 times around while those objects are in the pouch.)

I’m also still enjoying the humorous bits. My favorite line to date is the one where Pavol describes how his mind constantly seeks answers and says “it’s as if a trio of birds have taken up residence between my ears. Their names are How, Why, and What.” This describes the kids I deal with on a regular basis, too, and so it struck me as especially clever.

I love the animals. Yes, I already mentioned the cat. The donkey and the companion dog/wolves deserve their own mention, though. The donkey, especially, made me grin.
Kathy on The Good: I didn’t really pay much attention to Bruchac’s use of 7 and I’m happy for it, I like the writing elements to be embedded in the story.  I thought it was clever the way he had the cat grow smaller but I wish that scene was more actiony.  It seemed way too easy for them to defeat the cats.

I must admit I’m growing a little weary of the humor. It’s starting to sound repetitive and adult-like to me. I’m having a hard time seeing Rashko as, what? 15? I don’t buy it.

Jedovaty is awesome. But Bruchac continually mentioning that he has retained his irony without it’s edge is grating on me and making me get an edge.  I got it the first and second times he let us know and I get the why - it’s hard to write sarcasm, especially if it’s a teasing sort and not a making fun of sort, but give me the opportunity to use the knowledge you’ve given me instead of spelling it out, again.

“The Bad”

I started out leery of the plot device where Rashko sees the events of Pavol’s life through Pavol’s eyes. I’m still not sold on it. Really? I was perfectly happy with the flashes between the different points of view, and I didn’t need this. You could even tell me that Rashko was reading the event, and then flash back to it, without making it seem like Rashko was living it. Perhaps it will be a needed device in the last section of the book, though, so I’m holding out total judgment.

I want to know how magic works. This “magic is inexplicable” nonsense just doesn’t cut it for me. Some of my favorite fantasy novels have intricately designed magical systems, and I love that. While I understand that this is a single novel, so there isn’t really a need to develop a set of magical rules in detail, I’m still disappointed.
Kathy on The Bad - I didn’t really get the sense that Rashko was there when I was reading these new Pavol parts, even though he says he was. It would have played better if Pavol felt he was being watched or something. The only difference between these latter Pavol parts and the earlier ones is we know Rashko is reading the story. Why the change? Like you, I’ll see if it is necessary to Part 3 and then determine its effectiveness.

I agree on the magic-less explanation. If they are drawing strength from the castle, if Josef and Anya have magical powers, it would be awesome to know about these things. Again, maybe these will all be revealed in the last part? I hope we are not leading to a rushed end.

“The Guesses”

Like you, Kathy, I can’t help trying to make predictions based on what’s going on now.

First is one I think seems like a “no brainer” at this point. I’m calling that Uncle and Baba are the same couple in both time periods. The couples are so similar, and there are countless times when the“agelessness” of both is discussed. No one can identify exactly when Baba Anya arrived, but she was already old? This is a classic Tuck Everlasting technique. Leave when it’s obvious you’ve lived too long; come back when you can legitimately be seen as “descendants”.
Hm - I thought that too. But Anya says she’s Marta’s great-granddaughter on pg. 199 though she could be trying to throw us off with that. In a sense, I feel like everything is going to be revealed as a big repeat. It’s going to end up being that Rashko is Pavol and he’s stamped down his memories.  Especially since Pavol was said to have disappeared.  

Second – I’m leaning towards the thought that Pavol and Karoline are actually the current king and queen. Not quite as sure on thisone, though, since there have been no comments from the commoners that link the couples like there are for the Uncle and Baba guess. Yet there are just toomany common links for them to just be descendants – and there were several mentions of the fact that Karoline is an “in-betweener” and that when a mortal marries a faerie the rules about lifespan and aging all change.
Hm - I just said I thought Pavol was Rashko but I forgot about Karoline! But I’m inclined to think that Karoliine is Poteshenie gone bad. Even though there’s no evidence.

Third – I’m betting Paulek isn’t really under the princess’s spell. We didn’t see much of Paulek in this section, but there were a few times when something was mentioned (like “he didn’t come running”) and the sword fight where it appeared that his slavish devotion to her is a ruse.
Hm - There was a point being made that Paulek was really into the sword fight - at least until the end. I also wonder if his sword fighting will come into play at the end. We’ve been told of his fighting skills over adn over. They must mean something. But, is he under her spell? I don’t know. Could the castle be protecting them from the “magic”? The castle has to have some sort of power. it’s been mentioned several times that it looks as if it rose from the stone. Could it be the mountain that Pavol climbed?  I need a map!
I’m responding to this one while watching you type below... very surreal :) I think I got the impression that it was the same mountain. I thought that the way the cave entrance was described made it sound exactly like the big black door that the queen opens when she first shows the boys the treasure. Even down to the detail that a team of horses could walk abreast through the doorway (I went back in the book to check because it sounded so familiar)

Okay, this one isn’t a guess as much as a confirmation. The Baron is the Dark Lord. So that still leaves open the question about whom this darned princess really is. I don’t think the Pavol section mentioned any additional people with the Dark Lord, did it?
Hm - I don’t remember mention of a lady but, when I just reread the first prologue, it talks about seeing a “tall youthful shape” by a door outlined in the same thread as Pavol. could that be Rashko? Also, the black thread of the Dark Lord is said to appear and disappear through out. It makes mentions of the jugglers that we just met in town with Rashko too but who are they? Are they good? Not answering your question so much as adding new ones!

Weirdly, I just completely changed my opinion of the book. I thought Bruchac was doing too much telling but I have lots of questions so maybe he just appears to being doing that! When I first started reading your comments and thinking of replies, I felt negative and as if I didn’t really like the book a whole lot, now I can’t wait to get to the end!
I’m so glad! As I started to read your responses I was beginning to second guess myself - maybe I just liked it in comparison with World Without Heroes! This one is fun, and I do hope some of my guesses are way off so that I’m surprised... but I’d also like to be right!

On a side note - are we going to do Fahrenheit 451 next? (side note, we chatted about this on Twitter once we heard the news of Bradbury's death)

I’d love to do Fahrenheit 451 next. I adore Bradbury, and a reread would be very timely now (and fit in with my plans for a SciFi Summer fiesta!)


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