Once again, welcome to Batty About Books. This week Kathy (aka @thebrainlair) and I are chatting about the ending of Dragon Castle by Bruchac. As always, my thoughts are in purple and Kathy's are in blue. Check out her blog - The Brain Lair - for her thoughts with my responses!
Please, chime in with your own thoughts and ponderings about the book or any questions we raise.
Dragon Castle – Onward to the Ending!
Well, it turns out I was wrong about several of my guesses for the ending of the book. I’m okay with that, though. Thinking about what will happen makes me happy, and being proven wrong (as long as the real ending makes sense) is fun. It reminds me of the fact that over all the years of reading Agatha Christie novels, I only figured out the actual murderer once. I was incredibly proud of that one time, I’ll be honest.
Kathy: I always felt Agatha wasn’t meant to be figured out. That particular style seemed to call for the author explaining all that you missed. That’s was one of the reasons I liked her writing. I was glad to be proven wrong on Poteshenie (have I mentioned how much I dislike that name?). Overall, though, I was on the money. Not sure how I feel about that because sometimes predictability can be ok, it feels good to be validated. Not sure how I feel yet.
I continued to have mixed feelings about the book in this final segment. I’m going to go ahead and say that my overall score for it would be something between a 3 and 4 stars. I’m not sure what to put into Goodreads.
Kathy: I was going for a solid 3. The beginning was great, I think. But not sure if that was because I disliked the Mull book so much. Things seemed to go a little repetitive after that though. Not as much sparkly writing or character development. Still a good read, just not great.
First, let me say that I’m glad the dragon battle continued from the end of our last section. When it started off and he killed the first few heads so easily, I was greatly disappointed. The whole book has been leading up to the promise of a dragon, and it was “over too quickly” (Sorry, Princess Bride reference. Had to be done.) I was still wishing we’d had more from the dragon, at this point, though. The battle didn’t seem as powerful as I’d hoped it would be, though.
Kathy: AGREED! I mentioned that I felt it was “overkill”. Instead of killing six of seven heads, maybe we could have had him struggle with one of the dragons. He was all too smart expecting the next head and even the part about the tail. I would even have welcomed more of the dragon’s sense of humor.
There was also a bit too much “over-explaining” of things that didn’t really need it. Rashko spends an entire page bemoaning the fact that he dislikes “dark, tight spaces” (page 240) and then tells us that he has a light spell. Seriously? I didn’t need the whining about the darkness when he had a readily available solution! If I want to hear a character whine I’ll rewatch the first Star Wars movie and listen to Luke. I also thought that Raskho’s inner monologue explaining Pauleks’ behavior was overdone. (page 280) I know I’m not the target audience, though, so maybe a middle grade student would need and/or like this?
Kathy: HAHAHA! I literally busted out laughing over the Star Wars reference! We both question whether this works better for middle grades than adults. The vast difference between writing for middle grades and writing for young adults needs to be surmounted. The MG books seem geared more for up to early 6th while the young adult books seem geared for late 7th or early 8th. Is there really no actual middle ground? I haven’t done a 6th grade book club in years because it’s hard to get appropriate books towards the middle of the year. I wonder if that’s a real issue or just in fantasy reads?
As for the big reveals at the end? I liked some of them and didn’t like others. While I liked the idea that Pavol and Karoline could each come back “through” two people instead of one, I don’t think that part was fleshed out enough earlier in the book to really satisfy me. Yes, I could tell that Paulek was more than he appeared… but it still just didn’t ring true. Maybe if Bruchac had incorporated some of Paulek’s perspective in the story? I don’t know. The juggler women were also sprung too late in the tale to really make me feel satisfied with their part of the story.
Kathy: GAH! Over way too fast and the things he should have explained left open. I thought we could have gone into detail over who those princesses were and why they felt the need to change their names. Paulek was, by far, my favorite character. He was more fleshed out than Rashko yet we could have learned more about him. What aspects of Pavol did he embody besides being a good swordsman? How was he resisting Poteshenie’s and Temny’s power?
I liked watching the new castle rise after Pavol defeated the dragon. We already knew that part, but it was well told. I also enjoyed the sly power of the dragon Sedem as he assists in the final battle, though his assistance was also a bit anticlimactic. He just eats all the bad guys?
Hmm… going through my notes I’m realizing there were more dislikes than likes in this section. Here’s a big one for me – Teraz taunts Poteshenie with “a woman’s most mortal weakness” – reviling her appearance and clothing choices? Not cool, Bruchac. Not cool at all. Yes, he then has them fight alongside the men, but I would have been happier with another choice of taunt early on.
Kathy: Sedem had such a good sense of humor, you would have expected more quips from him to the bad guys. Also, shouldn’t there have been more bedlam from the appearance of a dragon?? Yeah, he blew the whole strong girl thing. He had them both rushing off with the Graces to take baths and get fresh clothes, too. Don’t men like to feel clean? Both those scenes were unnecessary. Also, Rashko was 15 and yet he felt totally comfortable around the lady he was interested in? I could see Paulek being that way as we knew he was interested in girls but I hadn’t seen that side of Rashko and was a little put off by it. Again, I felt too much of Bruchac’s voice coming through. It just read as much older to me.
Overall, I think it was a solid story that my students will enjoy, though. I don’t think the things that bothered me will impact their enjoyment as much. Maybe we should have chosen something other than Graceling as our first book! I’m not sure we’ll find another one we both adored as much as that one.
Kathy: Yes, I will definitely put this on the recommended fantasy read list. When I make one. :) I wonder if the different reading experiences lie in the level of the book? Is there an MG Scifi/Fantasy writer that does it as well as Cashore did in Graceling?
So, friends - what to do you think?