The Erth Dragons #1: The Wearle by Chris d’Lacey
Published by Scholastic, January 3, 2017. Jacketed hardcover of 320 pages at $16.99. Intended for ages 8 – 12, grades 3 – 7.
Note: I read an advanced copy so anything may have changed by publication.
The cover: This fearsome looking dragon is most likely the protagonist of this tale, Gabrial. He looks absolutely menacing, but he’s fairly young for the characters of this book. The horns that cover Gabrial’s face make him appear fierce, as it would to any human, but the story gives him much more depth than this one terrifying image. This illustration by Kerem Beyit would definitely have caught my eye if I were looking for a book that might contain monsters and lots of action. The jacket design for this book comes courtesy Mary Claire Cruz. Overall grade: A
The premise: From the inside front jacket, “A Wearle of dragons set out on an expedition from their home planet and was never heard from again. Now, a new Wearle determined to find the first has come to the place its creatures call Erth. Gabrial, who still has the blue scales of a young dragon, is eager to prove himself and find his missing father. But when Gabrial causes a terrible accident that results in a baby dragon going missing, he’ll have to prove himself worthy of remaining with the Wearle at all. Across the scorch line, most Hom, or humans, live in fear of the dragons, never daring to come close to dragon territory. But a boy named Ren is too fascinated to stay away, and will soon find his fate intertwined with that of the dragons. When a terrifying conflict erupts between the dragons and humankind, Ren does the unimaginable, and crosses into dragon territory. Will he be able to gain the dragons’ trust and help prevent an all-out war?” I enjoy stories where two outcasts come together to solve a problem and having this pairing be a dragon and human sounds very interesting. I’ve read several dragon books intended for young readers over the last few years, so I’m hoping that d’Lacey can give me something new. Overall grade: B
The characters: The first protagonist is Gabrial, who has the misfortune of being blamed for something he didn’t do. His punishment is to serve in a function he doesn’t want, allowing him to be away from the many plots going on within his Wearle. He is overeager, which befits his age, but he is true and would do nothing to hurt another. The second protagonist is Ren Whitehair, a Hom. Ren goes against his tribe’s warnings and frequently goes out of his way to look at the dragons. He is very intelligent, so much so that he figures out a way to get close to the flying lizards so they don’t see or smell him. He makes a discovery that sends the Wearle in a tizzy and it gains him abilities far beyond those of other Homs. Grendel is a female dragon that likes Gabrial, but realizes he may no longer be allowed to mate with her as he has been punished. She discovers clues that lead her to suspect that things are not right in the Wearle and she communicates those thoughts to Gabrial. Ned Whitehair is Ren’s father who tries to get his son to obey their tribe’s rules. When Ren disappears, Ned takes it upon himself to find the boy and in the process has a harrowing adventure of his own. Gallen is the first recognizable antagonist of the book. Being a Veng, the fighting dragons who enforce the rules of the Wearle, it is obvious that he and the others are barely containing pent up aggression that may have appeared. I found myself initially enjoying the dragon portions of the story more so than that of the Homs’, but by the middle of the book it was the humans who had captured my focus. Thankfully, as all the plot lines came together, both casts of characters were enjoyable. I was impressed with how d’Lacey was able to create a good balance of interest with both groups. Overall grade: A
The settings: This is Earth, post-caveman but pre-builders. Dragons occupy only one area on the planet, though the first Wearle they’re searching for could be anywhere. The location the dragons live in is within the scorch line, which contains a mountainous area and a large swath of forests. The Homs live outside this area, in the plains and the trees. It was very easy to picture a burn line separating both races and d’Lacey makes every setting vivid. Overall grade: A
The action: The book opens with an action sequence between two dragons that turns into a disaster. After this, the book becomes a mystery with Gabrial and other dragons trying to discover what actually happened. The breadcrumb clues that d’Lacey hands out to readers increases the unease that the dragons feel that something is wrong. Ren’s actions are much more perilous, as he faces the wrath of his tribe and a quick death if discovered by the dragons. Things take a very interesting turn when Ren acquires powers that are similar to a dragon’s. Once the truth is discovered by all parties there’s an exciting battle. However, there’s more tension than actual physical action, but it is still enjoyable. Overall grade: A-
The conclusion: A very satisfying ending with the all the dilemmas satisfactorily resolved. I was very happy to see where both Gabrial and Ren ended up and how each effects his people. There is also an Epilogue that contains a major cliffhanger that introduces a character that dragons fear. I had no problem with this reveal; as this is stated as being “Book 1”, I knew that d’Lacey had plans for more tales. Overall grade: A+
The final line: I was very pleased with this book for going places no other dragon book had gone. The relationship between both races was good and both protagonists are smartly written. The mystery is good and the conclusion satisfactory. Here’s hoping the d’Lacey puts out the next book soon. Overall grade: A
To order a copy of this book go to https://store.scholastic.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/en/SearchCmd?storeId=11301&langId=&catalogId=16551&N=4502+4519&isbn13=9780545900188