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“Dragonclaw” by Kate Forsyth

Have you every been friends with someone who has a knack of picking out amazing books for you to read? For me, that person is my mother.

Years and years ago, she came home with this book for me and it’s turned out to be such an amazing book (the first in an equally as amazing series) that I come back and re-read it at least once or twice every year. I feel as though it contains everything that a good fantasy novel should: Adventure, drama, mystery, surprise, deceit, suspense and of course, a touch of romance.

The story starts out focusing on the young Isabeau; a cheeky sixteen year old girl who can talk to animals and who lives with the ancient woodwitch Meghan. The land in which they live, Elianan, has outlawed witches and magic since the Day of Reckoning. The punishment for practicing magic is death. Meghan sends Isabeau out on an important quest to take a talisman across the land to another fellow witch. Her journey doesn’t go according to plan, and she is soon caught and tortured for her use of magic.

Whilst all of this is happening, Meghan has her own quest to complete – that being to help the last remaining prince reclaim the throne. Along the way, Meghan meets up with a young girl named Khan’derin, who is the spitting image of Isabeau but only in looks alone. While Isabeau would never hurt any animal, Khan’derin takes pleasure in slaughtering and fighting, and barely speaks two words.

Without giving too much of the plot away, it’s an epic adventure. The two story lines that I just mentioned have much more to them than what I’ve just explained – It would a) take me forever to explain them and b) give away all the good twists in the novel so I’m going to have to leave you with a skeletal plot summary.

To be honest, I didn’t always love this book. When I first started reading it, I found the language difficult to understand. All of the dialogue is written in phonetic Scottish, so it takes a little while to piece some things together (i.e. that Bairn is the world child) but once you do, the dialogue grows on you. What I also like about this book is that the pace is steady the whole way through. A pet hate of my when it comes to adventure or fantasy series is that the book focuses too much on the adventure, then crams all the action into the last 80-odd pages. Forsyth doesn’t do this – rather, she extended what could have potentially been a three or four book series into six books, and the story is all the better for it.

You get a sense of who the characters are because you have a chance to learn a bit before them before most of them meet their untimely deaths. But you also get a sense of how little individual moments contribute and fit in to the overall storyline. It’s almost like looking at the butterfly effect, I guess you could say …

It’s superbly written though, and once you’ve gotten use to the dialogue, the rest of the story sucks you in. The story ends at the right time, which leaves the reader wanting more without being irritated where it was left. (There’s a cliffhanger, and then there’s just torture. This one is a cliffhanger, folks).

While it is technically a Young Adult series, I found that I appreciated the story a lot more once I hit my early twenties and had a bit more experience reading fantasy novels that had more than one single plot throughout the novel. This book (and indeed the whole series) allows the reader to follow about 10 or so plots easily, and see how they all fit in to the bigger picture.

If you’re going to read this novel (which you should, by the way …) you need to give yourself plenty of time. This isn’t a novel you can speed read, and still get to the end of the novel and understand what was going on. There are so many little things that happen in this novel that you need to commit to memory in order to appreciate how the rest of the story unfurls. Be patient, be persistent, and I promise that you’ll find this book (and the others that follow) very rewarding.

Overall rating: 4.5/5