Dragon Shield by Charlie Fletcher

Dragon ShieldA review by Rebecca Fleming, aka Demonic Dragon

One fine Geek Girl Day (where Dark Matter Zine editor Nalini and fellow review writer CJ Dee gather to watch geeky TV shows and movies), I was rummaging through Nalini’s pile of books to be reviewed and came across Dragon Shield by Charlie Fletcher. Being a dragon-obsessed nut, I picked it up and, upon reading the phrase “murderous dragons” in the blurb, decided to take it home.

The first in a trilogy, Dragon Shield follows the adventures of Will and his younger sister Jo. While they’re at a London hospital to get Jo’s knee brace adjusted, time seems to stop, leaving everyone except Will and Jo frozen. Something malevolent is stirring in the British Museum, bringing all the city’s statues to life… and many of them are not friendly. Helped only by a few friendly statues, Will and Jo soon find themselves on the run from the aforementioned ‘murderous dragon’ statues as they try to figure out what evil is responsible for freezing London.

Dragon Shield is aimed at the middle school market (around 8-12 year-olds) and gets into the action very quickly. As well as running for their lives to escape the foes pursuing them, Will and Jo also need to deal with the tension between them. Will resents Jo because of the time he’s spent going to the hospital with her over the last year and because her injury slows them down, but at the same time he blames himself. Jo’s knee injury resulted from her jumping off a roof after Will dared her to because he had done it, even though he had only pretended to jump.  The guilt Will feels about causing his sister’s injury eats away at him and only causes him to resent her more. With the dragons not letting up in their relentless pursuit, there’s little time for them to sort out their differences. The living statues with their quirky personalities round out a colourful cast of characters. I especially liked the soldier statues, some of whom were good humoured while others were stiff, bossy and formal.

While I enjoyed the story, it didn’t feel like a standout in the genre, and there were a few things that bothered me. One was that there were a large number of typographical errors, such as extra spaces and missing full stops. There were also some inconsistencies in capitalisation (eg switching between “The Officer” and “the Officer” within the space of a few sentences). Admittedly these are relatively small gripes but it is unusual to find so many typographical errors in one book and they do jump out at me. I did, however, like the illustrations (which I believe were by Nick Tankard); the black and white pictures of the city of London with its strange statue inhabitants would no doubt appeal to younger readers as well.

This trilogy is apparently set in the same world as another trilogy by Fletcher: Stoneheart. Having not read any of the previous books, I can’t say what similarities or differences there are between the two series, but Dragon Shield appears to stand well enough on its own whether or not you have read the Stoneheart trilogy. If any of the characters were in the Stoneheart books, they were introduced well enough so that readers of Dragon Shield wouldn’t feel confused or lost.

Overall, if your child enjoys fantasy books, this one is worth a read. While not exactly ending on a cliff-hanger, Dragon Shield certainly leaves a lot of things unresolved, so I’ll probably check out the second book in the series, The London Pride, to see what happens next.

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ISBN: 9781444917321
Format: paperback, 258 pages
Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books