“Not just another dragon story; this memorable escapade is fast-paced and packed with action. It will leave readers on the edge of their seats.”
— D.J. MacHale, author, The SYLO Chronicles and Pendragon
Can one boy stand between two kingdoms at war? Jaevid Broadfeather has grown up as a wartime refugee, hiding from the world because of his mixed racial heritage. He feels his future is hopeless, until a chance encounter with a wild dragon lands him in Blybrig Academy—a place usually forbidden to anyone but the rich and royal. But Jaevid’s case is special; no dragon has voluntarily chosen a rider in decades, so the proud riders of Blybrig must begrudgingly let him join their brotherhood despite his bloodline. Lieutenant Sile Derrick, a sternly tempered man with a mysterious past, becomes his instructor and immediately takes a peculiar interest in Jaevid’s future. While struggling through the rigorous physical demands of training, things begin to go awry. Jaevid witnesses the king’s private guards kidnapping Sile in the dead of night. When none of the elder riders are willing to help him, Jaevid begins a dangerous adventure to save his instructor. Everything Jaevid learned at the academy will now be put to the ultimate test.
About the Author
Nicole Conway is a former freelance graphic artist for promotional companies and is now a full-time writer. She enjoys hiking, camping, shopping, cooking, and spending time with her family and friends. She lives in Valdosta, Georgia.
Read an Excerpt
By Nicole Conway, Georgia McBride
Month9BooksCopyright © 2013 Nicole Conway
All rights reserved.
I had never seen my father before my twelfth birthday. Not even once. Up until then, my mother had raised me all by herself in the royal city of Halfax. We lived like all the other gray elves in Maldobar — separated from the rest of society in the heavily guarded wartime ghettos. We had to follow a strict set of rules about where we could go, what we could do, when we got food, and what we could own. If you broke any of the rules, it was an immediate sentence to the prison camps, which I always heard was a fate worse than death. We were supposed to be grateful. After all, we were war refugees. Maldobar didn't have to take us in, much less provide us somewhere to live. This was their act of charity towards us.
Our house was not much more than a tiny shack made of old recycled wood, and it only had one room. You'd expect a place like that to smell terrible, but my mother was a genius when it came to making anywhere feel like home. She could grow absolutely anything, and that was how she made our living. She grew vegetables, flowers, tiny fruit trees, and strange vines that climbed all over the walls and windows. It made the inside of our house feel like a jungle, and it smelled earthy like fresh soil and the fragrance of flowers. We couldn't legally sell anything she grew since gray elves weren't allowed to have any money, but we could still trade. So early in the mornings, my mother packed a sack full of peppers, fruit, vegetables, and anything else ready for harvest, and sent me out to the shops to trade for things we needed.
It was a lot harder than it sounds. Not the trading itself, that part was easy, but I had to be very sneaky about it. I was always on the watch for guards, or humans. Gray elf children were rare, even in the ghettos. Any elf living in the kingdom of Maldobar as a refugee was absolutely not allowed to have children. It was forbidden. Having children was a great way to get thrown into a prison camp, or worse.
But I didn't just have to worry about that. It was bad enough to be a gray elf kid, hiding until you were old enough to be overlooked. But I was a halfbreed. My father was a human from Maldobar. So instead of looking at me with anger, everyone looked at me like I was a cockroach. The humans didn't like me touching their stuff because I was mixed with the filthy, wild blood of a gray elf. If they hadn't liked my mother's produce so much, they probably would have turned me in to the guards. The gray elves didn't like me, either. But there was a very strict code amongst them: you didn't betray your own kind no matter what. So they ignored me rather than ratting me out to the city guards.
I really didn't fit anywhere, except with my mother. She loved me unconditionally. She was the most beautiful person in the world. Her hair was long and silvery white, and her eyes were like stars. All gray elves had eyes like that. When she smiled at me, her eyes would shine like gemstones in the light, as white and pale as diamonds with faint flecks of blue, yellow, and green in them.
When she died, I had just turned twelve. I got the feeling right away that no one really knew what to do with me. I didn't fit into anyone's plans. If I were a pure blooded elf, they would have taken me straight to a prison camp. If I were a human, someone would have adopted me. I wasn't either, and yet I was both at the same time. I think the guards were just baffled that my mother had done such a good job of hiding me for so long, or that she'd somehow managed to have an affair with a human man.
Ulric Broadfeather was the only one who would take me in, and I'm pretty sure he only did it because my mother had left a letter behind naming him as my biological father. If it weren't for the public shame of disowning a child, he probably would have just let me go to a prison camp anyway.
From the very beginning, my father was the most frightening man I had ever known. He was hugely tall, like a knight, and stronger than anyone else I had ever seen. Once, I saw him pick up and pull the family wagon while it was loaded with bags of grain all by himself. He could have crushed my neck with one hand if he wanted to. His hair was jet-black like mine, except it was cut short. My mom always insisted I wear my hair long, like gray elves traditionally did. I also had his cold blue eyes that were the same color as glacier water. There definitely wasn't any doubt he was my father. I looked too much like him for anyone to deny it.
I wish I could say that he welcomed me with open arms into his home; eager to make up for lost time he hadn't gotten to spend with me. But he already had a family, living on the outskirts of a small city called Mithangol, and he wasn't interested in adding me to it. I was an unwanted guest right away.
He had a human wife named Serah who made it perfectly clear she didn't want me in her house at all. Serah absolutely hated me. She glared whenever she looked at me, accused me of being responsible for anything that went wrong, and refused to let me sleep in her house because I gave her a "bad feeling."
So I slept on a cot in the loftroom of Ulric's workshop, instead. As bad as it sounds, I actually preferred it. It was quiet there, and even though it was cold in the winter, I liked the smell of the old hay and the leather that was stored up there.
Ulric also had another son, Roland, who was four years older than me. Roland chose to ignore my existence completely. I got the feeling that he was in survival mode, trying to be as aloof and uninvolved with the family as he possibly could until he was old enough to move out. I couldn't really blame him for that. Like me, he favored our father. He was really tall, muscular, and had the same ice-blue eyes that looked like they belonged to a powerful bird of prey. I was a little afraid of him, even though he never said more than two words to me at a time. I could sense a lot of anger coming from him, and I was always paranoid I'd be standing too close when he finally snapped.
Ulric had two more children, a pair of twin daughters named Emry and Lin. They were six years younger than me, but they were meaner than a pair of hungry jackals. Every day, they tried to get me in as much trouble as possible. Of course, Serah believed every word they said. They would break things, let the chickens and goats out, or steal jewelry from their mother's room, and blame it all on me. Once, Emry got ahold of the sewing scissors and chopped up Lin's hair. When Serah found out, Emry blamed it all on me and told her I had done it. Serah believed it, and I got a beating from Ulric as soon as he came in the house. Inventing new ways to get me into trouble was their favorite pastime, and there was nothing I could do about it. They were sneaky and smart, a lot smarter than me I guess, because they never got caught.
The only good thing about living with my father was watching him work. Ulric was a tackmaster — he made saddles for the dragonriders from Blybrig Academy. But he didn't just make saddles; he made the very best saddles in Maldobar. I watched him through the slats and gaps in the floor of the loftroom, shaping leather and stitching intricate pieces together. He did it all by hand, and it took him several weeks to craft one saddle. But when it was finished, each one was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. It made me envy him, even if he probably wished I had never been born.
That's why I almost keeled over when Ulric growled my name, calling me down from my room into his shop. He'd been working for two weeks solid on a new saddle, one more beautiful than ever, and it was finally finished.
"Wrap it up," he barked at me in his gruff, gravely tone, and threw a few old quilts at me.
I was stunned. Ulric had never asked me to do anything before, especially nothing to do with his work. This was my chance, I thought. If I could be useful, maybe he wouldn't hate me so much. He might even teach me to make saddles someday.
Ulric left me alone in his shop, and I walked over to the saddle that was set up on one of the big sawhorses. I ran my fingers over the freshly oiled leather. It was as red as blood, engraved with intricate designs and images of mountains and vines. All the buckles were made of silver-plated iron. I couldn't even imagine what it would look like when the dragon it had been made for would finally put it on. A powerful beast, bound for the skies with a snarl and a flash of fire. It made my skin prickle, and every hair stand on end.
I was small for my age. Ulric's stature apparently hadn't been passed on to me. To make matters worse, I was so skinny that I pretty much looked like a scarecrow. Emry and Lin like to call me "stick boy" because they knew it bothered me. If I were as big as Roland, no one would have tried to push me around.
It took all my strength to wrap the saddle up in the quilts so it wouldn't get scratched or damaged, and then lug it outside. The weight of it made my arms and lungs ache. I could feel myself wobble dangerously if I leaned too far in any direction. I didn't want to imagine what Ulric would do to me if I dropped this saddle.
The knights who rode on dragons just about never came to pick up their saddles personally. Most of them came from rich, powerful noble families, and had plenty of servants to do those kinds of errands for them. So when I saw Ulric standing outside talking to a man in formal battle armor with a sweeping cape of royal blue brushing at his heels, I stopped dead in my tracks. The saddle weighed more than I did, and I almost dropped it in surprise.
It was a muggy, overcast day. The clouds were so low and thick you couldn't see the mountains that hunched over our small city. Even so, the knight's armor still managed to gleam like liquid silver. He had his helmet under one arm, the white-feathered crest on it tipped in black, and the king's eagle engraved upon his breastplate.
They both turned to look at me as I stood there, my arms shaking under the weight of the saddle, staring at the dragonrider. Ulric scowled darkly, and stomped over to take it from me. He slung it over his shoulder like it weighed nothing at all, growling curses under his breath at me as he went to tie it down to the knight's horse.
The knight, however, was still staring right at me. He gave me a strange look, narrowing his eyes some and tilting his head to the side slightly like he was sizing me up. It made me blush from head to toe, the tips of my pointed ears burning like torches under my long hair. This was a warrior who had probably fought against gray elves for years, and I knew what I looked like.
He curled a finger at me, calling me toward him. It made me cringe as I obeyed. I hedged toward him, my shoulders hunched up because I half-expected him to hit me just out of pure resentment for what I was. But he didn't.
When I got close enough, he grabbed my chin in one of his gloved hands, cranking my head around so I had to look up at him. I was shaking all over, wondering if this was it for me. Maybe he'd crush my head like a grape in his hand. Or maybe he'd throttle me to death. Either way, I was pretty sure Ulric wouldn't go out of his way to save me. He might have even thanked the knight afterwards for saving him the trouble.
"What's your name, boy?" The knight asked me. His voice was deep, but not angry or resentful. He was turning my head this way and that, pulling back my hair to see my pointed ears, and looking me over like he was inspecting livestock.
"J-Jaevid." I told him through clattering teeth.
He frowned, looking back into my eyes before he finally let me go. His own eyes seemed dead to me. Dead — like someone who had seen many years in battle and knew what it meant to kill without mercy.
"How old are you?" he asked again.
"Fifteen, sir." I took a few steps back away from him. If he came after me suddenly, at least I had some hope of outrunning him. I was small, but I was fast.
Ulric was finished tying the saddle down, and came over with a growl meant to shoo me away. I took the hint and retreated back into the workshop, up to my loftroom where I had a wooden cot piled with old, holey quilts. I went to the small window along the far wall. It was a good place peek at them through the cracks in the boards that had been nailed over it. I could hear them talking, and it made my heart jump into my throat.
"You didn't tell me you had a halfbreed son," the knight chuckled, like it was a bad joke. "Looks just like a half-starved, miniature version of you, except for the ears."
Ulric just shook his head and kept growling rumbling words, glaring at the ground. "Serah wants him gone." I heard him say.
"Can't blame her for that." The knight seemed to sympathize. "You thinking of taking him on as an apprentice?"
Ulric just snorted like it was a ridiculous idea.
"Ah, my mistake then. I figured since your older boy had chosen to join the infantry you'd pass your skill set onto someone else in your family. I doubt your girls would be interested." The knight rambled on, beginning to stroll back to where his horse was waiting. The new saddle was bundled up and ready for transport. "A shame he's such a small, sickly-looking thing."
That stung me. Yes, I was small for my age. But I hadn't thought I looked sickly. It made me angry at myself, and at my inability to grow even a few inches taller. What a difference even two inches and a few pounds of muscle would have made.
"Where's his dragon?" A whispering voice suddenly asked from right beside me.
It scared me out of my wits, making me scramble away. I was half afraid it was one of my sisters. But it wasn't.
Katalina Crookin was probably the only friend I had in the world. Her father was a very good blacksmith who worked with Ulric sometimes, helping him craft unique pieces that required a more skilled metalworker. They only lived about a mile away, so Katty and I had found each other inevitably. She was small and skinny, like I was, with a head full of wild gold curls. She had big dark blue eyes, and just about every inch of her face was covered in freckles. The other kids in town teased her and called her ugly. I knew it must have hurt her feelings, but she never let it show. And when the other kids would come after me, trying to cut my hair or throw rocks at me, she was always there to defend me ... and no one could throw a rock harder or more accurately than Katty. She had blacksmith's hands.
I shook my head at her, moving back to the window to peek outside again. The knight was getting on his horse already, dropping a purse of coins into Ulric's hand before he rode out of sight.
"I don't know. I don't think he brought it," I whispered back. Neither of us had ever seen a dragon before.
Katty puffed a sigh of disappointment while shaking her head. It made her gold curls swish back and forth. "I saw him coming up the road. I knew he had to be a dragonrider. Normal soldiers don't wear armor like that," she told me. "Can you come over today?"
I didn't know. Normally, I could've easily slipped away to visit the Crookins without Ulric or Serah even noticing I was gone because usually, they didn't care where I was. But Ulric had actually asked me to do something for him today. Not to mention, he and the knight had been discussing my future — or lack thereof. I wasn't so sure I could get away with leaving without getting caught.
Katty was watching me waffle between my desire to go to her house, and the inevitable beating I would get if Ulric ever caught me over there. She smiled. "Momma's making sweetbread," she baited me. "With wild honey."
That decided it for me. I grinned back at her, nodding because we both knew what goodies were sure to go along with sweetbread. Thoughts of whipped butter with cinnamon and sugar, and warm milk with a hint of honey, were already swimming happily through my brain as we climbed down from my loftroom. We darted out the back of Ulric's shop before anyone noticed, and took the narrow footpath we'd made ourselves through the prickly briars. It was our secret path, so no one would see us.
Excerpted from Fledgling by Nicole Conway, Georgia McBride. Copyright © 2013 Nicole Conway. Excerpted by permission of Month9Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A fun and entertaining spin on the world of knights and dragons! I really enjoyed this original idea and the cool characters, and is an easy read for any fantasy fan! Highly recommend this one, especially for kids looking for a good, clean adventure that teaches some good life lessons about tolerance and friendship. Can't wait for the sequel!
I discovered Fledgling a few weeks ago by accident. I didn't really have any expectations for this book, especially considering it was being for a much younger age group and self published to boot, but for $.99 I figured what the heck. I was very pleasantly surprised. Fledgling is an extremely clean read (Thank you Ms. Conway! Please keep it up!) and with surprising depth of character. Jaevid was a wonderful, lovable character that I can't get enough of, and I love that special bond between him and his dragon. The plot was old hat and quite predictable, but the author made it feel completely fresh and I found myself unable to put it down. Heck, I read it over again six times just in the first week after I bought it! (and several more times after that...) This story is perfect for all age groups and would be a good teaching tool for parents wanting to educate their children on bullying and prejudice. I just wish that the story had been a bit longer. I would've loved to see the characters lives fleshed out in more detail. But if the sequels turn out this good I am totally going to buy this series in paperback. It's definitely one for my keeper shelf. I am so glad I found this book and am eagerly awaiting the release of book #2, Avian, this summer and book #3, Traitor, this coming winter.
Jaevid is a halfbreed, he is half grey elf and half human. When his mother dies, she names his father as a local man, and now that man has no choice but to take Jaevid in. Jaevids future looks bleak because halfbreeds are looked down on, that is until Jaevid gets the chance to go to Blybrig, the Dragon-rider Academy, to help his father. One night Jae goes off in search of food. He hears a sound from the strange building he saw when he first arrived. He goes to the building an peeks in. Inside is a magnificent dragon and Jae is mesmerised by it. He sees Sile Derrick, a dragonrider, in there. Sile begins to tell him that this dragon is a wild dragon and not one bred at the Academy. Its been a long time since a wild Dragon chose a rider and no one can seem to tame this one. Jaevid feels drawn to it and gets closer. The dragon responds to Jae and from that moment Jaevids life changes. He is thrown into the world of Dragonriders and when he uncovers a plot to kill Sile, no one believes him so Jaevid is the only one who can help him. I adore dragon books!! They are my favourite mythological creature so when I saw Fledgling, I immediately added it to my list. I'm so glad I got the opportunity to read it too because, while aimed at younger readers, I still really enjoyed it. Plot wise we didn't see much action till the end. Its a little slow going but I attribute that to the fact its the first in the series. There's a war going on between grey elves and humans but we don't learn much about why it started or whats happening with it. Its supposed to be why the Dragon riders are needed yet its never really discussed. I would of liked a little more history and background of the war. Poor Jaevid!! He has such a tough time. His mother died and his father and his family hate him! They treat him really bad. My heart broke for him. Jae is hated by both Grey Elves and humans because he is part of each and gets treated like he is the lowest of the low. Yet he is kind, honest, brave and a true hero. He is so happy to become a Dragonrider because he thinks it may give him respect but people still frown upon him. His whole life is a struggle to be accepted and liked. He has one friend in the academy, Felix, and even though Felix trys to protect him, Jae still gets bullied. I was rooting for him the whole time! Then we have the Dragons. Mavrik is Jaes dragon and he is magnificent!! I loved reading about them and loved Jaes bond to Mavrik. Most of the other riders don't have the same bond because the dragons didn't choose the rider so Jaes bond is special. Overall I really enjoyed Fledgling. It shows us that its not always the biggest that can be a hero! It was a nice, fast read and I'm really hoping that we learn more about the Grey Elves, the war and the Dragons in future books because this series has the potential to be really great.
My Thoughts - 5 out of 5 Unicorns - I loved it!!! ***Received the book as part of a tour for Avian (book 2) for an honest review The cover is awesome. I love the dragon on the cover, and I think kids will be drawn to it because it reminds me of how dragons are depicted in video games like WoW. Okay, I wasn’t sure what to expect in this book because Nicole Conway is an author I have never read before, but I know from the first time I saw the cover and read the blurb that I wanted to read it. It definitely exceeded my expectations, and I loved reading it. The book is like the movie Eragon meets Lord of the Rings kind of vibe…well at least to me. :) I love Jae’s character because even though he is treated badly and abused by just about everyone he is so brave and loyal to the few people who are very worthwhile friends. He is so tenacious and never gives up. This is so hard to demonstrate to high school students. I know in high school, there is always so much strife and mistreatment from student to student going on, and when one of my students is upset, I always ask them if the person is their friend. When they tell me no way, I tell them then why care what they think? Don’t let someone else ruin your day or your image of how you think and feel about yourself! This was not something anyone ever told me in school, and I had to learn it much later in life. Felix is another awesome character. He will not stand for someone picking on or hurting one of his friends. He comes from money but does not let that define who he is. He lets his actions speak for him. Of course, you can’t leave out the fierce dragons who are awesome all by themselves. Mavrik sees something in Jae that no one else did, and they have an amazing partnership. I try not to give specific details in my reviews because I would never want to spoil your adventure into reading this book :) Nicole Conway does a fantastic job creating her world and describing it in a way that the images fill my head while reading. I can’t wait to read Avian next. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves reading dragon books! I especially think this will be a phenomenal addition to my classroom library when I can afford to buy this series. I’m sad to say it, but my classroom library is severely lacking in content to attract high school boys into reading, and I think this book would help in this area. My high school students get such a kick out of me sharing my books with them, and they are even more amazed when they see that an author has signed the book and that I still share it with them. I will be reading this book again with my son in the future :)
Fledgling brought to mind memories of one of my favorite dragon series - The Dragonriders of Pern - but with a much more young adult feel. Jaevid is a great hero - accidental and fumbling through. In the beginning, he has no idea that he may become anything more than a half-breed, unwanted by either of his heritages. His journey to becoming a dragon rider is full of so much adventure and discovery. Mavrick the dragon is a perfect fit for Jaevid. Both outcasts from the academy they fit so beautifully together. The dragons each have a bit of their own personality and I'm hoping to see more of the other rider's dragons in future books. Sile is a larger than life figure and while he plays a very important role, we don't see a whole lot of him. I wish he hadn't been so one-diminsional. This was a fantastic start to a new series with a ton of potential. The world and lore pulled on a lot of "traditional" dragon and fantasy aspects, but there is a lot to set it apart from others as well. I strongly urge lovers of dragons and fantasy to check it out. *This book was received in exchange for an honest review*
This was a great book!