honestly mem's Reviews > Dragon's Bait

Dragon's Bait by Vivian Vande Velde
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Feb 09, 09

bookshelves: young-adult, speculative-fiction, fiction, personal-bookshelf, resolution-2010
Read in January, 2009

Oh, I liked this one! I wasn't expecting to enjoy it given how underwhelming I found Vande Velde's A Hidden Magic and A Well-Timed Enchantment, but oh, it is pretty great, you guys! The thing is, Dragon's Bait suffers from the same problems that plague most of Vande Velde's work - the supporting cast is hugely underdeveloped, the plot allows for little digression and proceeds at a near-breakneck speed, and the romantic relationship is rather weak - but either the flaws aren't quite as grand in this particular work or I just don't care, because I totally loved it.

Theory: I love this book because the heroine, Alys, is totally awesome.

Contrary to my own expectations, Dragon's Bait is a very nicely executed tale of revenge and the sacrifices one makes to obtain it. Accused as a witch by greedy neighbors, found guilty by a corrupt official from a distant town, and staked out as a sacrificial meal to appease a marauding dragon, Alys is motivated not by a desire to escape into the greater world in search of a new home, but by a desire to see herself and her father avenged by any means necessary. There's little new to be found in the depths Vande Velde plumbs; there is no surprise in the moment when Alys recognizes what she is becoming in the name of vengeance. But I found it refreshing anyway, I think, perhaps, because it is so rare for a YA author - or any author at all - to write of a woman whose driving purpose for the duration of the story is to see those who wronged her ruined and dead.

In contrast, the supporting cast is, well, flat: flat like pancakes, flat like a well-paved road, flat like a passing-for-mediocre joke falling splat on an unappreciative audience. But I don't care as much as I think I ought to, perhaps because it's what I expected of the authors, perhaps because I'm far more interested in Alys's evolution as a character than I am in anything else, perhaps ... who knows.

I'm only bothered by the lack of motivation afforded to two fairly important supporting characters: the witch, whose background nastiness seems to be inspired by a dire case of Just Because, and Selendrile, the latter moreso than the former. I suppose I don't need to know why Selendrile chooses to spare Alys's life when they first meet, nor do I need to know why it is he chooses to go along with her plan for vengeance; there's enough suggestion in the text to come to any one of a number of conclusions, and perhaps that's what Vande Velde wanted. I do think the book would be much improved had she not left the matter of Selendrile's character a mystery. There are times, especially in the middle bits, when he seems to be little more than a prop, which is rather unfortunate, especially in light of that final scene.

At any rate, I enjoyed it a great deal more than I thought I would, and I wouldn't hesitate at all to recommend it to any girl in the sixth and seventh grade. (I certainly would have enjoyed it then had I known it existed.) Hooray for vengeful teenage heroines!

*3.5 stars.
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Reading Progress

01/06/2009 page 64
32.65% "Thus far a substantial improvement upon what else I've read by Velde."
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honestly mem Ah, no, it's Selendrile's suggestion that Alys remain with him and the romantic tone of the scene that I found unfortunate, mostly because I didn't really buy the love story. Vande Velde never explains why Selendrile hangs around Alys or why he wants to, and he's a fairly two-dimensional character on top of that, so it just exasperated me how she chose to close out the story.

(I'm very sorry it took me so long to get back to you, by the way! I've no excuse at all.)


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