BookLife Prize - 2020
Plot/Idea: 8 out of 10
Originality: 9 out of 10
Prose: 8 out of 10
Character/Execution: 9 out of 10
Overall: 8.50 out of 10
Plot: L.B. Lillibridge's Dragon Brothers stands as an uncommonly wise and empathetic fantasy, an adventure story whose royal heroes prevail not through heroic violence but by listening, questioning, and daring to upend the inequitable caste system that rewards them but punishes others. That heartening narrative, though, doesn't surge along the way the best fantasy adventures might, and the story develops little narrative momentum or continuity from chapter to chapter. The continual capturing and rescuing of hostages between the novel's two castes, the Shaynen and the Klor, feels repetitive rather than like suspenseful escalations.
Prose/Style: Lillibridge excels at dialogue scenes, at the stirrings of conscience inside her characters, and at the invention and depiction of magic. Sometimes her paragraphs run long and lose some focus, detailing action after action without fully emphasizing any particular one. She knows her characters' hearts and gets them onto the page, but Dragon Brothers doesn't always tap into those characters' desires and fears for storytelling momentum.
Originality: "Dragon born" fantasy characters aren't new, of course, and stories of royal succession and rebellion in fantasy kingdoms have been familiar for centuries. But Lillibridge invests her fantasy with fresh, appealing characters, engaging moral dilemmas, and an inventive blend of science and magic. Especially welcome is the book's humanistic bent in an age of darker and darker fantasy books for younger readers. Flying, here, feels truly magical.
Character Development: Lillibridge’s dragon brothers are humble, big-hearted, and immediately appealing, as are the dragon toddler Haia, the apprentice Laney, and the sympathetic outlaw Rory. The adults are somewhat less vividly drawn, but, encouragingly, prove capable of change when the young people argue against longstanding injustice.
Date Submitted: April 02, 2020
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