Amie Kaufman, Scorch Dragons (Elementals, #2), HarperCollins, March 2019, 448 pp., RRP $17.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781460755280
This is the second book in the Elementals series by Amie Kaufman, beginning where the first book left off.
Anders, his twin sister Rayna and Lisabet are now in the dragon stronghold, Drekhelm. The dragons are wary of the wolves and don’t know whether to trust them. Some of the members of council of the Dragonmeet are sure that the wolves of Ulfar are gearing up to attack the dragons and that Anders has given away their hiding place. But the Drekleid, Leif, convinces the others that the best solution for now is to keep the wolves where they can see them, by making them Finskólars – students in the Drekleid’s gifted group. As Finskólars, they can learn the ways of the dragons and perhaps figure out the secrets of their past and a way to bring peace to the wolves and the dragons.
But the weather all around Vallen is starting to cool and Anders finds out that the wolves have stolen a weather-changing artefact called the Snowstone. Sigrid, the wolf pack leader, is wielding the Snowstone towards Drekhelm in order to weaken the dragons. While the Dragonmeet chat endlessly about their options, Anders knows that it’s up to him and his friends to do something before it is too late. He discovers the existence of an artefact called the Sun Sceptre and that it possibly has the power to counteract the effects of the Snowstone. Anders, Rayna, Lisabet and Ellukka enlist the help of some of their new friends to help them find the missing pieces of the Sun Sceptre and keep their activities secret from the Dragonmeet.
Following the map and clues to find the pieces of the Sun Sceptre, the journey takes them back to Ulfar, where Anders, Rayna and Lisabet are now outcasts, and to other parts of Vallen. Along the way, Anders and Rayna discover more about their own past and the ongoing rivalry between the wolves and the dragons and wonder if they will ever be able to return the two tribes to the peace and collaboration that once existed.
I had not read Ice Wolves before I received Scorch Dragons for review so I dove in without any expectation and it took me a while to find my feet. I would recommend to others to begin reading the series from the first book. However, once I settled into the story, I found a satisfying fantasy world like none I have read before – one in which dragons and wolves take human form and have magical powers.
One of the strengths of this book is the exploration of the idea that truth is a matter of perspective – that there are two (or more) sides to every story. There is no clear enemy, the conflict arises from the tension between the dragons and the wolves, and the reader can empathise with both sides, even though many of the adults in the story cannot. Another point raised is that conflict is often a matter of small misunderstandings, small grievances that add up over time, rather than a singular event or a singular difference of opinion. This is explored in one particular scene in which the Finskólars discuss how the conflict between wolves and dragons came about.
Though the focus of the book is the conflict between the wolves and the dragons, and there are some battle scenes, the adventure is in unravelling the clues to find the Sun Sceptre. For a middle-grade fantasy book, I was delighted that the content is mild for sensitive readers and there are no love-interests, nor anything too dark.
Happily, the adventure doesn’t stop there. The children are now outcasts from both the dragon and the wolf tribes and the conflict is no closer to being resolved. This will all come to a head in the third book, which I look forward to reading.
This is a great book for middle-grade readers 8-12.
Reviewed by Pamela Ueckerman