by Robin Mckinley


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Jake lives at the Makepeace Institute of Integrated Dragon Studies in Smokehill National Park. There are five million acres of the Smokehill wilderness, and the endangered dragons rarely show themselves. Jake's never seen one except at a distance. But then, on his first overnight solo in the park, he meets a dragon - and she is dying. More than that, she has just given birth, and one of the babies is still alive. . . .

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780142414941
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 10/29/2009
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 1,201,511
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.70(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Robin McKinley has won various awards and citations for her writing, including the Newbery Medal for The Hero and the Crown and a Newbery Honor for The Blue Sword. Her other books include Sunshine; the New York Times bestseller Spindle's End; two novel-length retellings of the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Beauty and Rose Daughter; and a retelling of the Robin Hood legend, The Outlaws of Sherwood. She lives with her husband, the English writer Peter Dickinson.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 2

I didn't see anything that day but ordinary eastern Smokehill landscape, and little stuff like squirrels, and a few deer and wild sheep. But the weirdest thing is that by the time I got to Pine Tor I had this huge harrowing sense of urgency, instead of feeling good and tired and pleased with myself-and maybe deciding to go a last leisurely quarter-mile farther to make it twenty miles and then find a nice place to camp didn't register with me at all. I was so wired I couldn't stand still, despite how tired I was. I had to keep going. Where? What? Huh?

I have to say I'd made unbelievable time. That sounds like bragging but it's important for what happened. I got to Pine Tor and it was still afternoon. I stood there, panting, looking around, like I was looking for a Rangers' mark, except I'd already found the one that was there. I wasn't even very interested in the fact that Pine Tor itself looked just like Grace's-Billy's wife-drawing of it and so it was like I had seen it before. It was like I was waiting. . . .

Waiting. . . .

I knew what the smell was immediately, even though I'd never smelled it before. The wind was blowing away from me or I'd've smelled it a lot sooner. My head snapped around like a dog's and I set off toward it, like it was pulling me, like it was a rope around my neck being yanked. No, first I stopped and took a very close look at where I was. Pine Tor is big, and I needed to be able to find not just it again, but the right side of it. I was about to set off cross country, away from the Rangers' trail and the Rangers' marks-the thing I was above all expressly forbidden to do-and I had to be able to findmy way back. Which proves that at least some of my brain cells were working.

It wasn't very far, and when I got there I was glad the wind was blowing away from me. The smell was overwhelming. But then everything about it was overwhelming. I can't tell you . . . and I'm not going to try. It'll be hard enough, even now, just telling a little.

It was a dead-or rather a dying-dragon. She lay there, bleeding, dying, nearly as big as Pine Tor. Stinking. And pathetic. And horrible. She wasn't dying for any good reason. She was dying because somebody-some poacher-some poacher in Smokehill-had killed her. If everything else hadn't been so overpowering that alone would have stopped me cold.

I was seeing my first dragon up close. And she was mutilated and dying.

She'd got him too, although it was too late for her. When I saw him-what was left of him-I threw up. It was completely automatic, like blinking or sneezing. He was way beyond horrible but he wasn't pathetic. I was glad he was dead. I was just sorry I'd seen him. It.

There were a couple of thoughts trying to go through my head as I stood there, gasping and shaking. (I was shaking so hard I could barely stand up, and suddenly my knapsack weighed so much and hung on my back so clumsily it was going to make me fall down.) We don't have poachers at Smokehill. The fence keeps most of them out; even little half-hearted attempts to breach it make a lot of alarms go off back at the Rangers' headquarters and we're allowed to call out a couple of National Guard helicopters if enough of those alarms go off in the same place. (Some other time I'll tell you about getting helicopters through the gate.) It's happened twice in my lifetime. No one has ever made it through or over the fence before a helicopter has got there-no one ever had. Occasionally someone manages to get through the gate, but the Rangers always find them before they do any damage-sometimes they're glad to be found. Even big-game-hunter-type major assho-idiots sometimes find Smokehill a little too much. I'd never heard of anyone killing a dragon in Smokehill-ever-and this wasn't the sort of thing Dad wouldn't have told me, and it was the sort of thing I'd asked. Nor, of course, would he have let me do my solo if there was any even vague rumor of poachers or big-game idiots planning to have a try.

The other thing that was in my head was how I knew she was female: because of her color. One of the few things we know about dragon births is that Mom turns an all-over red-vermilion-maroon-with-orange-bits during the process, and dragons are green-gold-brown-black mostly, with sometimes a little red or blue or orange but not much. Even the zoos had noticed the color change. Old Pete had taken very careful notes about his mom dragons, and he thought it was something to do with getting the fire lit in the babies' stomachs. It's as good a guess as any.

But that was why the poacher'd been able to get close to her, maybe. Dragons-even dragons-are probably a little more vulnerable when they're giving birth. Apparently this one hadn't had anyone else around to help her. I didn't know why. Old Pete thought a birthing mom always had a few midwives around.

You don't go near a dying dragon. They can fry you after they're dead. The reflex that makes chickens run around after their heads are cut off makes dragons cough fire. Quite a few people have died this way, including one zookeeper. I suppose I wasn't thinking about that. I was thinking about the fact that she was dying, and that her babies were going to die because they had no mother, and that she'd know that. I boomeranged into thinking about my own mother again. They wanted to tell us, when they found her, that she must have died instantly. Seems to me, if she really did fall down that cliff, she'd've had time to think about it that Dad and I were going to be really miserable without her.

How do I know what a mother dragon thinks or doesn't think? But it was just so sad. I couldn't bear it. I went up to her. Went up to her head, which was like nearly as big as a Ranger's cabin. She watched me coming. She watched me. I had to walk up most of the length of her body, so I had to walk past her babies, these little blobs that were baby dragons. They were born and everything. But they were already dead. So she was dying knowing her babies were already dead. I'd started to cry and I didn't even know it.

When I was standing next to her head I didn't know what to do. It was all way too unreal to want to like pet her-pet a dragon, what a not-good idea-and even though I'd sort of forgotten that she could still do to me what she'd done to the poacher, I didn't try to touch her. I just stood there like a moron. I nearly touched her after all though because I was still shaking so hard I could hardly stay on my feet. Balance yourself by leaning against a dragon, right. I crossed my arms over my front and reached under the opposite elbows so I could grab my knapsack straps with my hands like I was holding myself together. Maybe I was.

The eye I could see had moved slowly, following me, and now it stared straight at me. Never mind the fire risk, being stared at by a dragon-by an eye the size of a wheel on a tour bus-is scary. The pupil goes on and on to the end of the universe and then around to the beginning too, and there are landscapes in the iris. Or cavescapes. Wild, dreamy, magical caves, full of curlicue mazes where you could get lost and never come out and not mind. And it's hot. I was sweating. Maybe with fear (and with being sick), but with the heat of her staring too.

So there I was, finally seeing a dragon up close-really really up close-the thing I would have said that I wanted above every other thing in the world or even out of the world that I could even imagine wanting. And it was maybe the worst thing that had ever happened to me. You're saying, wait a minute, you dummy, it's not worse than your mom dying. Or even your dog. It kind of was though, because it was somehow all three of them, all together, all at once.

I stared back. What else could I do-for her? I held her gaze. I took a few steps into that labyrinth in her eye. It was sort of reddish and smoky, and shadowy and twinkling. And it was like I really was standing there, with Smokehill behind me, not Smokehill all around us both as I stood and stared (and shuddered). The heat seemed to sort of all pull together into the center of my skull, and it hung there and throbbed. Now I was sweating from having a headache that felt like it would split my head open. So that's my excuse for my next stupid idea: that I saw what she was thinking. Like I can read a dragon's expression when I mostly can't tell what Dad or Billy is thinking. Well, it felt like I could read her huge dying eye, although maybe that was just the headache, and what I saw was anger-rage-despair. Easy enough to guess, you say, that she'd be feeling rage and despair, and it didn't take any creepy mind-reading. But I also saw . . . hope.


Looking at me, as she was looking at me (bang bang bang went my skull), a little hope had crept into the despair. I saw this happen. Looking at me, the same sort of critter, it should have seemed to her, as had killed her.

And then she died.

And I was back in Smokehill again, standing next to a dead dragon, and the beautiful, dangerous light in her eye was gone.

And then I did touch her. I forgot about the dead-dragon fire-reflex, and I crouched down on the stinking, bloody ground, and rested my forehead against a tiny little sticky-out knob of her poor ruined head, and cried like a baby. Cried more than I ever had for Mom-because, you know, we'd waited so long, and expected-but not really expected-the worst for so long, that when the worst finally arrived we couldn't react at all.

Twenty rough miles in a day and crying my head off-when I staggered to my feet again, feeling like a fool, I was so exhausted I barely could stand. And while none of this had taken a lot of time, still, it was late afternoon, and the sun was sinking, and I needed to get back to Pine Tor tonight if at all possible. I began drearily to drag myself back the way I had come. I had to walk past all the little dead dragonlets again. I looked at them not because I wanted to but to stop myself from looking at the poacher's body. Which is how I noticed that one of them was still breathing.

A just-born dragon is ridiculously small, not much bigger than the palm of your hand. Old Pete had guessed they were little but even he didn't guess how little. I'm not even sure why I recognized them, except that I was already half nuts and they seemed to be kind of smoky and shadowy and twinkling. The color Mom goes to have them and get their tummies lit up lasts a few hours or as much as half a day, but no one-not even Old Pete-had ever seen the babies or the fire-lighting actually happening and maybe that's not really when they're born or lit at all, and it's just Mom's color that makes humans think "fire."

But I did recognize them. And I could see that the smokiest, twinklingest of the five of them was breathing: that its tiny sides were moving in and out. And because no one knows enough about dragons one of the things I'd read a lot about, so I could make educated guesses just like real scientists, was marsupials. If I hadn't known that dragons were marsupial-ish I think I probably still wouldn't have recognized them, nuts or not.

They look kind of lizardy, to the extent they look anything, because mostly what they look is soft and squidgy-just-born things often look like that, one way or another, but dragons look a lot worse than puppies or kittens or even Boneland ground squirrels or just-hatched birds. New dragonlets are pretty well still fetuses after all; once they get into their mom's pouch they won't come out again for yonks.

This baby was still wet from being born. It was breathing, and making occasional feeble, hopeless little swimming gestures with its tiny stumpy legs, like it was still blindly trying to crawl up its mom's belly to her pouch, like a kangaroo's joey. I couldn't bear that either, watching it trying, and without thinking about it, I picked it up and stuffed it down my shirt. I felt its little legs scrabble faintly a minute or two longer, and then sort of brace themselves, and then it collapsed, or curled up, and didn't move any more, although there was a sort of gummy feeling as I moved and its skin rubbed against mine. And I thought, Oh, great, it's dead now too, I've got a sticky, gross, dead dragonlet down my shirt, and then I couldn't think about it any more because I had to watch for the way to Pine Tor. The moon was already rising as the day grayed to sunset, and it was a big round bright one that shed a lot of light. I could use all the breaks I could get.

I made it back to Pine Tor and unloaded my pack but I didn't dare sit down because I knew once I did I wouldn't get up again till morning at least. I was lucky; Pine Tor is called that for a reason and in a countryside where there isn't exactly a lot of heavy forest (pity you can't burn rock) I was really grateful that I didn't have to go far to collect enough firewood. The moonlight helped too. I hauled a lot of wood back to my campsite, being careful not to knock my stomach, because even if the dragonlet was dead I didn't want squished dead dragonlet in my shirt. I hauled and hauled partly because I was so tired by then I couldn't remember to stop, and partly because if the dragonlet was still alive I had a dim idea that I needed to be able to keep it warmer than my own body temperature, and partly because if it was dead I didn't want to know and hauling wood put off finding out. There'd been too much death today already.


The ending to Dragonhaven leaves open the possibility for a sequel. Is that an upcoming project?

The short answer is: no. I admit that I have a few thoughts about Jake's daughter, but that story, if it wants to be a story, will have to join the queue. And I'm not holding my breath, because I seem to be incapable of writing sequels. I've never written one yet. The closest I've come is the two Damar books, The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown, but even there I couldn't get it right. Aside from the fact that the books take place several hundred years apart, and therefore don't have a lot of (ordinary human) characters in common, Hero, which I (intentionally) wrote second, is a prequel. I also regularly receive begging letters for a sequel to Sunshine and I'd love to write a sequel but I have to write what comes. Sequels don't come, or they haven't yet. I admit I'm still hoping. Who knows? Maybe the new order will begin with Jake's daughter.

I feel that most of my books have a slightly sequelly resonance about the ending. This isn't deliberate but it does seem to me a quality of a story's liveness. Real life does sometimes seem to kind of come in chapters but it rarely has tidy endings. And if you write fantasy the usually reliable ending of death becomes negotiable too. I also think my knowing something about what happens to characters after the end of the last chapter is part of what makes the written-down portion sturdy. Like tent-pegs. Once you're in the tent you don't see them, but they're holding it up for you.

Some of the dragon's behavior is comparable to that of a dog; did you have a pet in mindwhile writing?

Again, no. But I've had animals either graphically underfoot or at least near at hand most of my life, and baby things do tend to have certain qualities in common (peskiness being the first and foremost) so connecting with Jake's experience wasn't too much of a stretch, even though I've never raised a dragonlet. For which I'm grateful. Puppies are enough of a handful. I brought my new canine generation home last October, just when I was plunging into the final mad race to get rewrites on Dragonhaven done in time to shove it through for publication this autumn, which is to say I was already several months late. Two puppies energetically wreaking their will on their surroundings-and me trying to prevent them from chewing up anything that would either give them a nasty stomach-ache or that I'd miss if it disappeared, like most of the furniture-did perhaps add something to the texture of the last tweaks I gave to Jake's story.

Which of Jake's characteristics would you most like to have?

Talking to and being friends with dragons, of course!

What inspired you to write this book?

You're trying to disguise the dreaded question 'where do you get your ideas?' The answer is the same. I have no clue. These things zap in from the something-or-other-osphere and say HI. I'M A STORY. I'M YOUR STORY. WRITE ME. I don't know why they come, I just hope they go on doing it. I can tell you that Dragonhaven started life as another Fire Elementals short story-my husband Peter Dickinson and I are theoretically supposed to produce Air, Earth and Fire to go with the Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits that we've already produced. Years ago. I'm just not very good at short stories. My last novel before Dragonhaven, Sunshine, started as a Fire story too. The one I'm working on now also started life as a Fire story. . . .

What do you enjoy best about writing fantasy?

I'm afraid this is another unanswerable one, like 'where do you get your ideas' or 'what inspired you'. Fantasy is what comes to me to be written down. Before I wrote (my first published novel) Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast I'd written probably about half and half fantasy and non-fantasy fiction. The Really Really Really Awful Novel I wrote when I was eighteen was straight fiction. For quite a few years after Beauty, which was followed by The Door in the Hedge, Sword, and Hero,fantasy all, I kept waiting for the straight story to blast in from wherever and tell me to write it down. It didn't. Outlaws of Sherwood, my retelling of Robin Hood, is still the nearest I've come to straight fiction, and while it's roughly (very roughly) historical and magic-free, to me it's still pretty much all the same thing as the others: ballads about Robin Hood turn up in the same anthologies as ballads about ghosts and shape changers and pact-offering devils and so on. Come to that, Dragonhaven is magic-free, but I don't suppose anyone's going to call it straight fiction and shelve it next to Mary McCarthy and Carson McCullers.

If you weren't writing novels, what would you be doing?

Riding horses, walking dogs for miles and miles over the countryside, ringing bells (big church tower bells and little singing handbells, in English change-ringing patterns), playing the piano, floundering in a garden I keep forgetting to leave places to put my feet when I squash another plant in, baking bread, studying homeopathy, writing my blog, reading, reading, reading. . . . Oh, you don't mean earning a living, do you? Hmmm. That's harder to answer. Give me a minute . . . .

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Dragonhaven 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 69 reviews.
Angieville More than 1 year ago
A Robin McKinley book. It's got the word "dragon" in the title. And it's narrated by a boy. As I'm constantly telling long-suffering family members (anyone who will listen, really), with McKinley you never know what you're gonna get. I mean, yeah, she's known for her fairy tale retellings. And her fantasy stories about girls who kick butt. Oh, and that one vampire book about the baker. But just when you think you know what to expect, she writes a contemporary only sorta fantasy about a boy who grows up in a national park inhabited by dragons nobody's ever seen but who are nonetheless there. Jake finds this out firsthand when he stumbles across a dying dragon and her litter of dragon kits. Without thinking about it twice, he stuffs one of the babies inside his shirt and heads for the hills. Thus the adventure begins. Jake's wandering, frantic, self-deprecating narration was right up my alley. I loved it. I loved that she gave her all to get inside a fifteen-year-old boy's head, threw in a few dragons, a heckuva lot of governmental red tape, and decided to see where it took her. Also, such a great last line. Bottom line: Sequels or no, Damar or no, I am up for anything you are, Ms. McKinley.
LWH78 More than 1 year ago
McKinley can't tell a bad story if she tried. Her writing craft is well proven. In this novel, She experiments with the technical side of how to tell the story, because the technique itself supports the story, which is a memoir told from the experience of a really warped and young human being. The result is not "smooth, polished story telling" because the narrator is not polished. He tells it as it developed, in order to make his audience understand why he felt what he felt, thought what he thought, made the mistakes that he made, and did what he did. The result has a number of "clunky" places that are completely in character with the narrator and not in character with the smooth story-telling craft of McKinley. This technique either works for you (as reader) or it doesn't. I found on the re-read that I spent a lot more time grokking those chunks, and getting a much deeper understanding of the narrator, than I did on the first time through when I was primarily interested in the adventure of the story. But I am not her usual "young adult" audience either. As a classic coming of age story, it is extremely well written, and should be read on more than one level. I think that her youngest readers will find themselves getting something different out of the story as they come back to it again, later in life, when their own life experience gives them a different and deeper perspective on the nature of parenthood.
vwhis More than 1 year ago
I did enjoy reading this. It's a nice easy read for a cold winter evening. I have to admit that The Blue Sword was much better dispite the terrible book cover. I would reccomend that you read The Blue Sword first.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
For his entire life, Jacob Mendoza has lived in Smokehill National Park, one of the last and largest wildlife preserves for Draco australiensis in the world. His father, who heads the Institute dedicated to the study of the endangered dragons, has kept a tight leash on him since Jacob's mother died while on sabbatical a few years ago. Finally, though, Jacob's father has agreed to let him finally go on his first solo overnight stay deep in the park.

Although not as excited as he probably would have been about it before his mother's death, Jacob hikes out on his own, determined to cover some good ground before he has to meet up with the head Ranger the following morning. However, his plans for doing so are cut short when he comes across a horrific site.

A wounded mother dragon who has just given birth lies next to the remains of the poacher who presumably attacked her. Jacob creeps up to the massive creature and finds himself drowning in her eyes before she dies, leaving him with strange sensations of anger, despair, and hope swirling inside him. Stunned and crying, he begins to stumble away, passing by her babies who are now scattered on the ground...and he notices that one is still alive.

Instinct takes over, and Jacob now finds himself a surrogate mother for a creature that nobody knows how to raise. What's worse is that, now that a dragon has killed a human, all of Smokehill may be gravely in danger, for, not only is it against the law to kill a dragon, but it is also against the law to save one's life.

Although I enjoyed watching the bonding of Jacob and his foundling, and the descriptions of some of these otherworldly sensations impressed me, I found this book very difficult to read. Jacob as narrator tends to ramble a lot, and he "speaks" in an extremely informal manner. However, some readers may find this style more appealing and easier to understand than traditional narration. The idea of a dragon preserve is nevertheless an appealing one, and I think that any fans of dragons may find this story fascinating if for that reason only.
thelorelei on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What is it that Robin McKinley has that other fantasy writers don't? I can't quite put my finger on it, but I think it has to do with the fact that her characters are so REAL and she puts the reader straight inside the characters' heads. And then there's her uncanny ability to set a scene so totally that even your sense of smell gets a workout (especially in this book). Maybe the fairy of language presided over her birth and from then on she just had it.Whatever the cause, "Dragonhaven" measures up to the best of her work, and also is a change of pace in that it features a male protagonist. I so enjoy her take on modern American society, in which this book and her previous, "Sunshine," take place. (with, of course, a fantasy twist to mix things up)Here, she explores the idea of "What if dragons truly existed and we'd nearly caused their extinction, until they were limited to a few wildlife preserves?" and then creates a whole scientific background for this premise. The story is told from the point of view of a kid who was born at the research institute within the preserve. His whole life is centered around these creatures, and becomes even MORE so as the story unfolds, due to events that I won't spoil for you. "Dragonhaven" is a startlingly emotional, stirring account of what happens when a young person is thrust into strange responsibility, and a gripping narrative of ethical/environmental themes.
reading_fox on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Distinctly charming, in a kind of in your face teenaged way.The teenaged protagonist Jake is retrospectively writing his memoirs now that he's famous, of the events that made him famous. He lives in Smokehill, the only dragon preserve in america, and one of only three in the world. It all started when he was 14 and allowed out for his first solo overnight in the wilderness preserve. It so happened that just where he was camping a mother dragon was dying, and fortunately he was there to rescue one of the babies. Whom he called Lois. The reason the mother was dying was that a rich kid had broached (never explained how) Smokehill's impresive security and killed her - and of course been killed in turn. Dragon's being a lot tougher than one puny human no matter how well armed. The first recorded instance of a dragon killing a human of course lead to a lot of inspections and upheaval. Which Jake barely notices while trying to conceal keeping his new baby alive.It's all written in a first person past voice, with lots of editorial asides from the now much older Jake. It's a very disruptive style, difficult to read. But it does very well indeed at portraying the teenage angst, without the overwhealmingly annoying emo-teen that say Rowling, manages. Obviously focused very much on the symbolic and paired growing up of the dragon and the boy, it doea lso manage to get in a bit of actual lab lit style sciencey commentary - reproducability of evidence and some thoughts on the intelligence of animals. Jake hardly ever mentions any of the other characters and so it is a very self centred book - up until the extrodinarily extended epilogue which covers a bit more of the wider context.It is charming and well worth reading, I suspect best aimed at those in their late teens, but enjoyable for anyone. However I think a more traditional writing style may have produced a better novel, even if it sacrificed the immidiacy of the communication
yaffa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I love Robin McKinley's writing. The Hero and the Crown at the age of 12 (21 years ago) had me hooked for life.This book has a very different writing style from her others. If you are a huge fan of her writing and are HATING this book stick it out until page 45 (at least in this edition).That is the point where Jake meets his dragon. The book then delivers her wonderful description of the fantastic and also the relationships formed in the book.It requires a bit more patience than her other books.Enjoy.
silentq on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm a huge fan of McKinley's work, and that hasn't changed with this novel. It's the story of Jake Mendoza who finds a baby dragon next to her dying mother and the poacher that Mom killed. It's set in an alternate Earth where dragons exist and are protected in conservation areas and parks, but they're still struggling as a species, as humans are leery of 50-80 feet long fire breathing flying "monsters". The tone of the book is spot on, it's told in the first person and it sounded like how my brother talks. :) I liked the sly dig at fantastical telepathic dragon stories, as this one showed the years and pain that it took to try and get communication working between the species. McKinley's been jumping genres a bit in her last few books, and I'm intrigued to see what she does next (there are hints at another one set in this world, though it wraps up neatly at the end). My only minor quibble is when the story passes from his memories into the present day, it's a bit awkward, but it fits the tone of the story-telling.
dreamingreader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
About 150 years ago, it was discovered that dragons existed in our world. Since then, they have been the subject of a fierce political debate between those who preserve them and those who see them as dangerous. Jake, a teenage boy who lives in a dragon preserve, changes the debate when he accidentally adopts an orphaned baby dragon. As a lover of Robin McKinley's other works, I hoped that I would also love this book. And I did. I couldn't put it down. A dense but well-told tale about a strange type of parental love. Jake is unflinchingly honest about himself that it makes it difficult to NOT like him and his experiences with the dragons is completely fascinating.There were some frustrations. The narrative isn't always tight because it is told as a "behind the scenes" type of book: the reader is assumed to have followed Jake's story through the news and so there are gaps in what the actual reader knows about the world McKinley has woven.Overall, however, a fabulously fantastic read and recommended to everyone.
PamelaDLloyd on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found the voice of the main character (who narrates the story) to be incredibly annoying, but somehow just couldn't put this book down. I loved the story, if not the way in which it was told.
michelleknudsen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was hard to get into at first, because I wasn¿t sure I liked the voice of the narrator (which addresses us directly, although we¿re not sure why at first he¿s telling us the story)¿I thought his use of ¿like¿ was forced, and I didn¿t buy his rendition of the seven-year-old Eleanor¿s dialogue at all¿but I warmed up to the voice as it went along, and by the middle or so I was absolutely hooked. The pages are dense, though, and the chapters felt super long. I read the adult mass market edition; curious to look at the YA edition to see if they made it more inviting, somehow. It¿s also interesting that the book is almost entirely pure telling, the big no-no, only I guess it sort of works because it¿s so intentional¿Jake¿s telling us the whole story, and tells us right from the start that he¿s not going to be able to remember all the he said/she said stuff, etc. It¿s also interesting in that McKinley has him assume a knowledge on the part of the reader that she knows we don¿t have (something that happened in the world that his imagined reader would know about)¿this adds to the suspense since we know he is working toward some significant event but we don¿t know exactly what it is. By the end I totally believed in the dragons and everything else. Really well done.
rocalisa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've loved Robin McKinley's writing ever since I first read The Blue Sword many years ago when it first came out. (Although I admit I haven't managed to read Sunshine yet.) I was sorry not to see anything new from her in recent years and felt a certain connection (totally one-sided of course) when I read her livejournal and discovered she has ME like me. I saw Dragonhaven reviewed by another participant in the Here be Dragons challenge and decided to try it myself. Luckily it was in at the library and I had it in time to take on holiday with me.I'll start with a small negative and move on to what I liked. The tone of this book won't suit everyone. It is written in Jake's POV and in his voice. That means long, rambling, sometimes confusing teenage boy sentences that occasionally run on and on and on. It's a memoir really, but written by a young enough author to not yet have a great sophistication of style. That means there's a lot of description and discussion and not a lot of dialogue. It took me a chapter or two to get used to, but I found myself enjoying it once I got into the flow of it.I liked Jake; he grew up in a certain isolation and lost his mother young and this means he has a slightly skewed vision of the world, but I like it - and him - all the same. His adventures are well described as are his reactions to them. It's all rather rambling, but everything is there and the pacing is solid. He describes himself as being rather "out of it" at the time he "adopts" the dragonet and this is also well shown within the text. He is indeed not quite in a solid headspace and probably wouldn't have done what he did if he had been, making this an important part of the story.Ms McKinley's dragons are lovely. Well described and well realised. Lois, the dragonet Jake rescues, is totally ugly, but cute with it, and her growth and development are well followed. Jake has some rambling discourses on dragon intelligence - whether they have it and what form it might take - early in the book which sets up well his experiences when he makes contact with the adult dragons.Happily, the dragons are intelligent, if not in the same way humans are, and Jake manages to get across their attempts to communicate without words while using words, something that is always a difficult feat.This is not a perfect book - I didn't love it the way I do Beauty or her Damar books - but it is a good, solid read and I'm glad I decided to pick it up. I also find myself wondering if Jake's somewhat tangential storytelling comes from Ms McKinley's experience with ME (and I acknowledge I'm totally reaching here). I have real trouble with seeing the "big picture" and getting a good, linear feel of things which I attribute to my own ME and Jake's rambling memoir reminded me of what I might write if I tried to write a book (or perhaps even how these book reviews come out). Probably there's no connection at all, but the similarity did strike me.DragonhavenRobin McKinley7/10
Turrean on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Robin McKinley is an accomplished author; her characters all have an authentic voice. This means that when she sets out to write a gawky, self-centered, inarticulate teenage boy's stream-of-consciousness tale, that's exactly what you get. Some of the sentences are so long, convoluted and full of parentheses and ellipses and side comments, that the reader loses track of where they began. Perhaps this makes Jake's narration more "authentic;" reading some high school kids' creative writing assignments would be authentic, too, though I don't wish to pay for the privilege. There is a limit to the number of times most readers wish to encounter amusingly confused pronouns, the word "duh!" and pseudo teen-isms such as "diafreakingbolical." The story covers about 10 years of time, and the most interesting stuff is the last six, which is condensed into a sort of flat, monotone flashback in the last 70 pages. Almost completely missing was the lyrical prose of McKinley's other stories. Since the book is essentially Jake's journal, and nearly all of that is a prose description of his efforts to save a young dragon, there is practically no sense of any other human presence. There is no conversation in the book that lasts more than about 4 sentences, so the reader has no way to understand any of the people in the book other than through Jake's eyes, and his changing feelings about them are more statements of fact than character development. The dragon "people" are the exception to this--dragon characters are quite well fleshed out and--forgive the word--humanized. There are pages of description of what a dragon might be thinking and doing while interacting with Jake, sometimes to the detriment of the story. For example, at one point the reader learns that a dragon is going to be arriving. It does, and the action moves to another part of Smokehill, where something very important happens. In Jake-speak, the arrival of the dragon takes seven pages, and the journey takes two. The important event, actually the only event of real interest to the reader and the most important to the plot, takes one! Jake's enthusiasm for dragons, to pretty much the exclusion of the rest of the world, is compelling, and at times it's enough to overcome the shortcomings of the way in which the story is being told. It's a window into the head of an obsessed scientist, who cares for little outside his field, and is fairly contemptuous of anyone who isn't interested, and even more contemptuous of anyone who is interested, but less knowledgeable than he is. Ultimately, the book reads like an anthropology text written by an enthusiastic 15 year-old. Only the fact that it was a "dragonology" text kept me reading to the end.
hoxierice on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book and didn't mind the storytelling style. Sometimes I did get annoyed with the "conversational-memoir" writing. But not enough to make me dislike the book. I was completely drawn into the story, the human, Jake, story, not the fact that it was about dragons.
Capnrandm on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The synopsis of this book put it on my back-burner until a craving for more Robin McKinley finally drove me out to buy it. I'm glad I gave in to the impulse, as once again, however outside my normal genre, Robin McKinley created a fascinating book that I find myself pondering and talking about weeks after completion. It doesn't matter what subject she tackles, her characters are just so damn interesting!
Aerrin99 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I love McKinley up, down, and sideways (I grew up on Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword and Beauty), but I had a hard time concentrating through this book. Review is spoilery, fair warning!The idea is intensely interesting - dragons (and a few other mythical creatures, like Nessie) have been discovered in the far reaches of the earth, and a national park has been formed on a few thousand acres of land in the mountains for their preservation and study, although neither is without controversy. And Jake finds one, dying from a poacher's gun - and sweeps her baby away to raise it himself. The plot points were fairly predictable, but no less enjoyable for that - of /course/ the dragons are intelligent, and of course they are at least somewhat telepathic, and of course at some point Jake will be swept away to their secret cave and attempt to talk to them, etc. None of that particularly bothered me, though - McKinley is a good enough writer that I don't mind predictable as long as it is also interesting. What made it hard for me to concentrate on the book was the choice of Jake's stream-of-consciousness writing style (which, frankly, I don't buy as 17 - he's writing this book after all the events have occurred, remember - particularly if we're meant to believe he's as book-smart as he tells us he is - it reads more like a rambling 13 year old). The rambling made it hard to focus and, worse, hard to skim through parts that didn't keep your attention. If I looked away from the book, I had a hard time figuring out where I'd stopped reading to start again. I'm pretty sure I kept on keeping on solely because this is a McKinley.The book, because it's a teenage memoir, /tells/ everything and /shows/ very little, if anything. As someone expecting McKinley's usual beautiful flair for all aspects of story-telling, including dialog and description, that was quite a let-down. I get what she was trying to do, but I just don't think it worked all that well. I can't help but think what a neat book Dragonhaven might have been, with the concept and the characters and especially the setting (which is the one bit of the story that I thought truly shone - Smokehill is a character until itself), had she told it to us in her voice rather than Jake's. That said, it's still better than half the stuff one stumbles across on the shelf, and you could do worse than this!
the1butterfly on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This one didn't draw me in at first, but once I got into it, it was wonderful. The beginning made much more sense at the end, and the ending itself was all it should be. The story was engaging in surprising ways.
bluesalamanders on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was very disappointed with this book.***This review contains spoilers***Ok. What I liked. Obviously this book is about dragons, and I thought the dragons, both as characters and as a species, were fairly well done, as was all of the zoological stuff. I liked the telepathy-ish communication ¿ it is an interesting take on telepathy, unlike anything I¿ve read. I even liked the plot.However, and this is something that bothered me throughout the whole book, the writing just seemed - off. I realize the narrator is supposed to be a teenage boy, but McKinley's writing is usually beautiful and almost poetic and this book leaned more towards boring and almost crass. The voice was fairly consistent through the book, I'll give it that, but it was not an interesting voice - and the times that it was interesting were when it veered away from that tone and sounded more like her previous book, Sunshine.When it didn't feel like it was trying to be Sunshine, it did, like I said, sound more or less like a teenage boy's voice, to the point where you'd think (if it had really been a teenage boy's book) an editor would have, well, edited it. Not for content, since that issue was addressed, but for, you know like bad word usage and like grammar. And the 'like's weren't even particularly believably placed. There were things that seemed to be lifted directly from McKinley's other books. Here are three things I noticed specifically as being pulled directly from another book (I'm sorry for not having exact quotes, but I don't feel like revisiting the text right now):- In the style of Sunshine, there were some (more so later in the book) phrases capitalized for emphasis. There was a headline-like phrase that could have been words Sunshine said - it was along the lines of the something-or-other "That Ate Schenectady. Pictures on page six." - Jake mentioned something about being a part of two worlds and fitting into neither, which is nearly word-for-word what Harry said in The Blue Sword- the healing/learning dreams-that-weren't-dreams were very like Lissar's in DeerskinNow, I don't mind this so much in and of itself - her books, now that I think about it, nearly all have basic plots along a similar line, and who doesn't sample from themselves from time to time? But this was just very blatant and - clumsy.Sunshine is a tough act to follow, I get that. She has such a distinct voice, and there it was, trying to come through in Jake - and those times when it managed to to some degree were the better, more interesting, more intense portions of the book, too. McKinley also went from something that was beautiful and sexy and delicious - even when it wasn't - to something completely different. That was bound to be tough. But even so...If this book had been written by another author, I would probably have been more forgiving about some of these issues. But I don't think I would have liked it any better. Sadly, this just bumped Rose Daughter out of the 'least favorite McKinley' spot on my list. For all its flaws, Rose Daughter is still beautifully written. Dragonhaven feels more like a first draft.
amberwitch on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Only a great writer can make a story with such an obviously selfconscious narrator work. The constant interruptions in the storys flow when the narrator interrupts himself or corrects his language are in this book a minor annoyance, as is the sometimes too grammatically challenged sentences. The narrator of this story about dragons and growing up is Jake Mendoza, a teenager who has lost his mother. He is living in a national park for the elusive dragonus Australicus with his alienated and distracted father. When he is out on his first lone overnight stay in the park he finds a dead dragon mother and her dying newborns next to an equally dead poacher. He saves the only living dragonlet, which imprint on him as a mother, and survives due to his frantic efforts. Efforts which ar hampered by the fact that noone has seen an infant dragonlet before, and the existence of it has to be kept secret, because it is illegal to help a dragon survive. As the dragonlet grows, it has to stay hidden while the public uproar surrounding the killed poacher is to be be dealt with. When this becomes too great a challenge in the park compound, Jake moves to a distant solitary camp in the park. There the approach of a wild dragon enables the dragonlets reentry in dragon society, bringing Jake - and later the rest of the scientists of the part - with her.
seitherin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the story of a 14 year old boy who becomes the mother of a dragon. The story is actually quite good and not you're run of the mill boy saves dragon kind of thing, but the teenage boy voice it is told in does occasionally get annoying.
susansmpdx on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Slow start...stream of consciousness style that at times was hard to wade through. But the plotline kept me going to an enjoyable, if predictable end. Her descriptions of inter-species communication were challenging but interesting.
jjmcgaffey on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Lots of echoes of Diana Wynne Jones' 'Dragon Reserve, Home Eight' - or at least, what I remember of it. Now I need to go look that one up and see if they really relate at all. Dragonhaven is a lot richer and more filled-in, anyway - McKinley took Dragon Reserve and ran with it. Very interesting voice in the story - the fact that he's writing it afterward and reluctantly...I'd like to come back to that world in about 100 years and see what's happened.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Generally love this author, but this book is painful. I cannot convince myself to read it. Have made it through the first few chapters and I'm going to archive. Don't like the style, don't really care about the characters, and I'm not really interested in dragons enough to keep reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago