Monday, 28 February 2011


I read Dragonborn, the first in the Flaxfield Quartet, over the holidays. The novel is largely aimed at a teenage audience but also makes a gripping read for adults, particularly anyone who enjoys the magic and fantasy genres.
Toby Forward sets his book in an imaginary magical world where there is “Up Top” and “the Deep World”; one of the strengths of the book is that he invents a new set of mythical creatures, from roffles to memmots, instead of drawing on the standard fare of goblins and elves. The book is beautifully written and although it is in the third person we largely see events through the eyes of Sam, a young apprentice wizard. It begins arrestingly and movingly with the death of Flaxfield, the wizard to whom Sam is apprenticed. Sam’s reaction to the death is related in a matter of fact way,

“...Flaxfield was dead. Sam was annoyed because the old man hadn’t told him he was going to die, and Sam missed him.”

I found this moving because of its honesty and the way it underlines that Sam has to cope initially with the practical consequences of the death, it is only throughout the rest of the novel that he grapples with coming the nature of death and loneliness. Sam seeks shelter, protection, and ultimately tries to fathom his destiny, meeting a series of characters and learning about the nature of life and magic on the way.

The book is accessible for younger readers but also offers deeper layers of meaning. The battle between good and evil and the relationship of Sam to Starbuck ,his dragon, creates interest and meaning but the novel also explore some sophisticated concepts of time and place – Sam seems at one point to be in two places at one time. The stories of some characters, such as December, cheated, robbed of her identity and disfigured in a fire, are told in such a way that the reader has to make the links and reflect on the meaning of the experiences related.

My sixteen year old son, an avid reader, loved Dragonborn and described it as “spellbinding” – I think it was a pun! The author does sometimes read this blog, but, discounting the chance of bias, I can say that I enjoyed the book immensely and would recommend it as ideal for young teens upwards.

1 comment:

  1. Totally agree, Sue. It's a wonderfully written book.