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The Secret of Dragonhome by John Peel

Title The Secret of Dragonhome
Author John Peel
Publisher Scholastic, Inc.
Year 1998
ISBN 0-590-59680-2

Teaser/Reader Annotation Melayne and her younger brother, Sarrow, are hidden Talents – humans with special gifts – that, if discovered, will be sent to die in a war they do not believe in. When they find refuge in the household of the Lord of Dragonhome, they must face down danger and betrayal while trying to survive.

Plot Summary This book is set in the fantasy world of the Five Kingdoms where there are two types of humans – normals and Talents. The former are the majority while the latter are turned in to the Royal Court and sent to fight in the ongoing war between the kingdoms. Melayne and her younger brother Sarrow are hidden Talents, she with the ability to talk to animals and him too young to know. When their parents are killed by raiders they must leave the only home they've ever known in search of relatives and a safe haven. Along the way they are captured by Talent hunting Seekers and end up fleeing to the bordering kingdom in order to escape. There they manage to get work in the household of the Lord of Dragonhome. However, the mysteries of the rundown castle may land them in more trouble than they were in originally.

Critical Evaluation The Secret of Dragonhome is set in a fantasy world that was simply designed and lacking in details in some parts. There could have been a better explanation of where, exactly, the war was taking place or more details about the kingdoms, their leadership, and their geography. It felt like this was a book designed for a more complicated series that never came together. The characters, though, were charming and engaging with a couple of rather clever lines thrown in. It was the plot line, itself, that drove the story forward – keeping enough twists to engage the reader but simple enough to follow easily. At times it tended to read a bit like a watered down and simplistic romance novel, especially towards the end, which would possibly discourage male readers from continuing to read it. Altogether, it is a quick and enjoyable book best recommended for low-grade, female readers looking for some light romance in a fantasy novel.

About the Author John Peel (1954) was born in Nottingham, England but currently lives in Long Island with his American wife. He has written under several other names, most notably John Vincent and Nicholas Adams.

Peel is the author of over one-hundred books and numerous short stories. He has written several young adult novels aside from Secret of Dragonhome and is currently working on a fantasy series known as Diadem. Outside of the young adult fantasy world, the majority of his books are television or movie tie-ins, most often of the science fiction variety.

Primary Genre Fantasy

Secondary Genre Adventure/Romance

Curriculum Ties None

Booktalking Ideas

1) Would there have been another way for Melayne to survive if Sarrow hadn't convinced her to go against her beliefs and eat the meat? How did this decision affect her?

2) Would you call Melayne a strong or weak heroine? Discuss.

Reading Level/Interest Age low-grade young adult readers

Challenge Issues None.

Why is it included? I had read this book when I was a young adult and had vaguely remembered it. When I saw it in the young adult section at the local library I felt the need to revisit it and decided to include it as a low-grade option.