What I’m Reading: “Dragons Away!” by K.D. Berry
Nonetheless I have had Dragons Away! (Bluewood Publishing 2011), by K.D. Berry, on my “To Be Read” pile for some time. K.D. Berry is in fact a writing duo, Kevin and Diane Berry, and having enjoyed the excerpts I heard both Kevin and Diane read from the book, I was keen to give it a try.
Dragons Away! is humorous fantasy, which overall I have not read a great deal of—some Terry Pratchett, of course, and also Tom Holt, but that’s about it—but overall I enjoyed the read.
Synopsis-wise the action takes place between two kingdoms where two unlikley companions, a half-ogre and court Illusionist, find themselves embroiled in what initially appears to be a sporting competition between two contending kingdoms, but is quickly revealed as disguise for a Nefarious Invasion Plot by the evil King Darkosh and his fiery, whip-wielding Queen, Gunora. Using the sporting competition, a race between ‘champions’, as a diversion for his invasion intentions, Darkosh has acquired a dragon as his contender in the race, leaving the good guys to find a dragon of their own else the kingdom will be lost… As well as the half-ogre, Urkhart and the Illusionist, Dewdrop, the cast of characters includes Retivor, a courier who must learn to tame his dragon (Fiery Flyer), a dwarf insurrection movement (the DUMM-ies—”Dwarves’ Underground Movement Militia”) led by a nurse (Sister), and an assorted cast of other characters of greater or lesser degrees of importance…
The story works at a number of levels: there’s the adventure, which rollicks along, and the humour interwoven through it, which takes the form of puns—lots of puns—slapstick and situational comedy, a strong sense of the ridiculous, as well as a degree of Fantasy “spoof.” Yet the story retains just enough “straight” elements, such as Fiery Flyer’s concern for the wellbeing of her trainer, Retivor’s essential decency, and Dewdrop and Urkhart’s genuine desire to “save the kingdom” that precludes the story from being “farce.” Overall, I feel the combination works and makes for a fun enjoyable read which in no way takes itself too seriously.
Interestingly, given Dragons Away! was a finalist for the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Novel this year, as opposed to Best Youth Novel, I also feel that it is a style of book that will appeal to tween/teen readers in the 11-14 year old age group, particularly given the style of humour and the “series of adventures and incidents” style of storytelling.
I did have a couple of quibbles. I think, for me, there were just a tad too many puns. I started off grinning and shaking my head, but ended sighing and rolling my eyes over them. Having said this, I am responding as an adult reader and one who has not read a lot of humorous fantasy. And from what I have observed of younger readers’ response to humour generally, I suspect they would not share my reaction.
My main difficulty though, was with the cover—which of course immediately moves us into the realm of the purely subjective. But sadly, I am a person who bases their initial response to books on covers and the cover of Dragons Away! put me off reading it until I heard the authors read excerpts that piqued my interest… So for me, the cover was a “stopper” and having now read the book, I don’t feel that that it “speaks” to the story in a way that does it justice.
Because if you like humour generally, and humorous fantasy in particular, I would recommend giving Dragons Away! a go: as aforesaid, it’s a fun, light read and I enjoyed it.
I also note that although Dragons Away! missed out on the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Novel, K.D. Berry won the award for Best New Talent, largely on the strength of Dragons Away!