Elise Schuchman's Reviews > Dragonhaven

Dragonhaven by Robin McKinley
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's review
Aug 04, 2008

really liked it

I have absolutely loved everything McKinley has ever written and Dragonhaven isn’t bad. It’s just in need of some serious editing.

1) It dragged. I'll explain: A lot of readers say Sunshine dragged. I always thought they were full of crap, Sunshine had, you know, Events going on, and the segues into world or character-building were genuinely interesting and not too distracting, for me at least. In Dragonhaven the main character rambles too, but his rambles repeat quite a bit so that readers find themselves reading mostly about stuff they already knew. And then there's the whole problem of not having much actually going on in the story to break up the rambles or at least focus them.
2) Dislike the whole premise: Young boy finds dragon, wait, hasn't this been done before? Oh, yeah... it has. In fact, it's was about 25% of the YA section last time checked. Robin McKinley brought it to life in a brilliant way, however, and I guess fairy tales aren't exactly strikingly original either.
3) The 'voice' of the character changed in the novel and, no, he didn't just grow up. The first few pages of Dragonhaven are written almost painfully immaturely and then the voice sort slides into something that resembles and occasionally mirrors Sunshine except with more colloquial 'teenage boy' sayings like "that's cool'. The maturity didn't put me off, I don’t think I could have read the whole book if it was all written like the first few pages, it was just that since he’s telling the story after he’s already gone through everything and after he’s already grown shouldn’t he be speaking more maturely as well, even at first.
4) I didn’t really get a good feel for any of the characters besides Lois and Jake (the MC). The dad seemed a stereotypical widower/workaholic, Martha was Really Nice all the time and everyone else sort of drifted on the sidelines. Eleanor and Ed could have been interesting, but they rarely made appearances . This could all be explained by the fact that Jake himself was detached from everyone and so maybe he didn’t really have a good idea of who they were either.
5) The ending was just too happy and tidy. I know it’s a YA novel, but Hero had some conflict to its ending -some realism- and so did most of her other YA novels. This just seemed a bit contrived to me.
1) Really love the descriptions of intense, sleepless motherhood being foisted on a 15-year-old boy. The detail and the emotions and just everything about it is spot-on.
2) Love the world she built, even if it wasn't quite as interesting as Sunshine's world.
3) Love some of the other descriptions and details, both of Lois and... other things (spoilers)
4) Honestly, I love some of the rambles and segues. I just wish she was backing them up with a some real-world interaction.

I'll still give it a 4, though. Because she brought the situation she tackled to life in a vivid way, even if there were some issues along the way.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
August 4, 2008 – Shelved

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Justin I agree with everything you said, minus the ending being "too happy."

It was a very happy end, I agree, but paying attention to everything said and experienced in the story, it fits perfectly.

I didn't realize how little the actual adventure in the first 290 pages had to do with the actual message and feeling (I felt) she was trying to convey. It's a little odd to have a 50+ page epilogue, isn't it?

Reread the last 15 or so pages and tie it in with the bigger picture of Jake's story. It's not just about a kid and his "daughter" dragon, it's about much larger absolutes in everyday life, and that isn't entirely conveyed until Gulp's incident through the end of the story.

Miriam Your review really nailed this one. Like you, I did not find Sunshine dragging at all. It was more eventful and also had more character interaction. Dragonhaven had the strong narrative voice but it was almost completely an internal monologue. As an internal monologues, it makes sense that there was a lot of repetition, but it didn't make for the most thrilling read.

andrea i agree with so much of your review, esp. about sunshine (loved it!) and also how dragonhaven needed a bit more editing (it did drag a bit).

clearly mckinley likes re-telling well-known stories, be it fairy tales like beauty and the beast or deerskin, or familiary fantasy themes like sunshine (vampires) or dragonhaven (dragons) or even blue sword (seemingly-outsider has magic, saves everybody). i like it - she always has something interesting to say about/in these stories.

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