Fledgling by Nicole Conway
Jaevid is a half-elf, half-human that’s sent to live with this biological human father, Ulric, who makes saddles for dragon riders. Fledgling, especially early on, goes quickly into How to Train Your Dragon territory. Jaevid is basically Elven Hiccup. If this is the How to Train Your Dragon novelization, I’m okay with that (I loved that movie).
The story is a little slow. Not in terms of action, but Jaevid’s internal monologue doesn’t quite feel right. The writerly part of my brain started to whisper “passive voice and gerunds…too much passive voice and gerunds…” This pattern of writing makes Jeavid feel like a boring character, even though I’ve got a solid idea of him as a person being that he’s a shy fifteen year old. He’s a bit more introspective, but there were parts that I started to skim because there was too much passive vs. active voice.
Felix is a weird character for me. I like him, but his personality–what we’re told and what we see–is a bit incongruous. Felix at once feels too mature and understanding, and yet, he does the silly ‘don’t tell me the clearly important information you have’ shtick. He’s also a huge goof-ball when it comes to the other students and girls. As I said, I liked him, but he feels a bit hard to pin down.
The dragons don’t have much personality, which is a bit of a shame. (Note: This gets better in Avian, but I want to talk about it in Fledgling, first.) Mavrik feels like an animal here, which is good, but this novel begs for the How to Train Your Dragon comparison. Toothless feels distinct as an animal with a personality, but Mavrik is a bit more of plot prop in this novel. He’s an animal, which is good, but he lacks the quirky behaviors normal animals exhibit. Once again, this gets better, but this is where Mavrik’s character stands for me in Fledgling.
There’s a lot of little, incongruous details in this story that felt silly to me. There are 9 fledglings and yet, a 100 trainees? That’s a very lopsided class size (years 1 and years 2 only were mentioned as being dragon riders). Once again, this is fixed and explained in Avian, but it left me scratching my head in Fledgling. They also jump on the back of a dragon…a dragon that has spines! And live. The slavers didn’t notice their prisoners run free? There was a lot of these little things, which added up for me, and even impacted the enjoyable moments of the book.
There are several times in the story where the mentor, Sile, has to be saved by Jae and Felix. It feels a bit repetitive, but it establishes that there’s a faction out for his life and that they’re connected to the crown. I liked Sile, but he doesn’t explain nearly enough of the major backstory to satisfy me. This is purposeful, but it does obscure his motivations.
MYTH TWIST! There’s a little surprise and added mythology after Felix and Jaevid are captured. This isn’t the dragon version of Hogwarts, and I expected the climax to take place at the school, which it doesn’t. This is a welcomed surprise and hooked me into the end of the story. The conclusion of the plot felt a bit too convenient. This is a continuing series, and there’s certainly more in the world and series. This book has the easy, MG feel of Eragon without the fiddly prose, but the obvious comparison is How to Train Your Dragon. The middle of the story diverts it away from what I expected, which elevated this book (and other novels in the series) for me.
- Jae, Katty, Nova, and Beck—irrational hatred of nicknames incoming.
- Stupid fantasy setting alert: why is there an ocean in the Devil’s Cup? Get rid of the ocean—it doesn’t belong there and would drastically change the climate.
- Do I criticize lack of originality here? It really is freakishly similar to How to Train Your Dragon initially.
- Stupid fantasy detail: maps. Why would they need to memorize country maps? The whole point of maps is that they’re there for reference. You should have an idea of how to read them, but they’re purposefully made to be used when lost. Sile even mentions this.
- “I don’t speak Elven” is perhaps the best moment in half-breed stories ever. A great fantastical example of how real-world racism often works.
- Dragons that spit acid. Nice biological touch there.
Rating: 3 stars
I’m continuing with the series, but I wanted to rate Fledgling before I got involved with reviewing Avian. This is a solid MG book, but there’s an overall flimsy nature to this narrative. Spoiler: I started reading Avian, and this series gets stronger. This isn’t the strongest start, but it’s a solid one.