Welcome to another edition of
Batty About Books!
We've been reading Dragon Castle by Joseph Bruchac and today we wrap it all up!
Dragon Castle is the story of Prince Rashko, a fifteen year old whose parents are away. Their castle has been invaded and only Rashko, his brother Paulek, and a handful of servants are there to defend it. But the invaders, Baron Temny and Princess Potenshie, are not as they appear. Magic seems to be involved and they are not overtly hostile. What's their plan? Rashko decides to consult his Uncle Josef who tells him to read the story of his great ancestor Pavol. The story stirs Rashko's memories and he knows what he needs to do.
This final part may contain SPOILERS! Proceed with caution. As usual, my thoughts are in blue and Maria's responses are in purple. Please visit Maria's blog at Maria's Melange to read her first takes on the Dragon Castle.Dragon Castle - Part 1
Dragon Castle - Part 2
Dragon Castle by Joseph Bruchac - The End
I was at turns intrigued and bored by this ending. I just wanted...more.
Maria: I completely agree with this wrap up!
I found I wasn’t as invested in the doings of Rashko/Pavol as the book wound down. I was way more interested in Paulek. Even though he was more of a secondary character, I “knew” him better and cared what happened to him. Rashko’s fate seemed clear from Part 2 and I just waited for Bruchac to put things into words but it wasn’t necessary. His actions were wholly predictable.
Maria: Yes! That is exactly it. I kept getting those little glimpses of the other characters, and I found it very frustrating that we didn’t get more of it. Especially with the way the book wraps up, I feel like Bruchac let me down on giving me more about those other characters.
I liked that the two jugglers were princesses who’d been affected by Temny but I wanted more of their story. When did the Dark Lord invade their lands? How did they escape? Had they been following Temny all along and waiting for this moment? Why were they on the tapestry? Was it really necessary that they changed their names? No one seemed to know who they were no matter what names they used.
Maria: Yes! I “get” that they are supposed to be part of the story because they are Karoline’s spirit reborn (Okay... maybe that’s what was meant?). But there was so much lost when Bruchac didn’t expand on their tale. Maybe alternating perspectives along the way would have given us more of what we wanted?
So Potenshie had a very different relationship to Temny than daughter. I still don’t understand how their powers increased unless it was being near the pouch. But the pouch and the dragon spelled their defeat, so no, I still don’t understand. Why pose as the daughter? Why did the return so many years after Pavol’s reign? Did I miss an explanation of whatever changed that made them believe this time would be different?
Maria: Yeah.... no, you didn’t miss anything (unless I missed it too!) I saw no reason why Potenshie should be his wife versus his daughter. Neither role gets mentioned at the start of the tale, or during any of the Dark Lord scenes. So I thought this addition just was confusing and not really needed.
The dragon had seven heads that each had to be cut off - here I felt Bruchac was using “the rules of magic” to extend this section unnecessarily. If, as he pointed out later, magical abilities of objects decreased after 3 uses, why didn’t Pavol defeat the dragon after 3 tries? It felt like overkill (pun intended).
Maria: I love that our slightly snarky humors are blossoming on this one *chuckles* Yes, I agree. Needing seven heads was a bit too much. I would have preferred he stick with 3 as his magic number here, and intensified some of the earlier battles.
Hm. There were just too many things left unexplained. How did the magical objects work? We saw some of it with Pavol but I never understood how either boy knew what to use when. Rashko calling on the winds was pretty cool but how did he know? Sometimes, “it just came to him” or “somehow he knew” is just not enough for me. I would have liked to see more of the parents. If they were able to come home when Rashko called, were they always able to come home? Why didn’t they? Yes, I can put things together because I’ve read enough fantasy to understand how many things work. But, will this fly with the middle grader? I dare say that those who love fantasy would ALSO understand it’s working, even if it’s in a subconscious manner. So, this book would go over just fine, I guess. Overall, a solid read. Not great but not bad either.
Maria: I think it “came to him” because Pavol was within him... but I get that sense without feeling like Bruchac did a good job revealing that bit. I also agree with you about his parents. Maybe they were trying to allow the boys to manage on their own? Maybe they wanted Pavol to be able to “come through” the kids? Even so, that wasn’t explained - or pulled through the text - enough to really be a good explanation. I wanted MORE about the faeries. I was disappointed by that. I was really hoping for more about the “in-betweeners” at the end since it was brought up periodically.
I liked Dragon Castle and would give it a 3 of 5. You can find more books Science Fiction/Fantasy for Middle Grades at the Cybils site.