Katie & Kevin Tsang, Dragon City, Simon & Schuster, September 2021, 320 pp., RRP $14.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781471193125
Dragon City is the third book in the Dragon Realm series, following Dragon Mountain and Dragon Legend.
In the third book of this thrilling series, Billy and his friends find themselves five thousand years in the future, in a dystopian city ruled by the Dragon of Death. Everything outside Dragon City has been decimated, it is uninhabitable – poisoned with dark magic. Inside, humans and dragons live to serve the Dragon of Death. Humans exist at the very bottom of the food chain – many of them are used on the dragons’ farms as life-force “givers”, some are kept by the dragons as pets and others scrabble for an existence underground, living in fear of the nox-wings. Billy, Charlotte, Dylan and Ling-Fei have found work as dragon groomers in exchange for dragon scales that they can use to buy food. Meanwhile, they are hoping to find a clue, some news that will help reunite them with their heart-bonded dragons and figure out a way back to their own time, perhaps even to defeat the Dragon of Death.
The five-thousand-year anniversary celebration of Dragon City provides the chance the children need to find out where their dragons are being held. During the tournament, Billy gets a glimpse of Spark, who betrayed him to join the Dragon of Death and now goes by the name of Death’s Shadow. He hopes that there is still some good left in her. But somehow, Billy finds himself embroiled in the celebrations, which seem to be nothing more than an excuse for the Dragon of Death to seek more and stronger humans from whom to take life energy. The challenges the children face seem insurmountable but when they discover an ally in one of the dragons they groom, there is a spark of hope. Midnight can help them rescue their dragons from the dragon dungeon but then they must face the Dragon of Death if they want to get back home.
Despite being told in the same easy, fast-paced voice as the first two books, Dragon City is somewhat darker than the previous two books with its post-apocalyptic / dystopian future which felt – from an adult perspective – like The Matrix meets Total Recall with dragons. The life source farms, the injuries and deaths some of the humans’ experience and the dystopian setting added a weightiness that the previous books did not have. However, the tone remains light and the challenges the children face made the book all the more riveting.
It has all the elements of a gripping fantasy read for older children. I should add that my 10-year-old son whisked my copy away before I barely glanced at it and devoured it in a day.
Highly recommended for reluctant readers in upper-primary and above.
The fourth book, Dragon Rising, is due for release in March 2022.
Reviewed by Pamela Ueckerman