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Monday, March 27, 2017

"Secrets of the Dragon Tomb: Secrets of the Dragon Tomb Book 1" by Patrick Samphire (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

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OVERVIEW: Mars in 1816 is a world of high society, deadly danger, and strange clockwork machines.

Twelve-year-old Edward Sullivan wants to become a spy like the ones he reads about in his favorite magazine, Thrilling Martian Tales, but he’s far too busy keeping his eccentric family from disaster. All of that is about to change. In the north, great dragon tombs hide marvels of Ancient Martian technology, and the villainous archaeologist Sir Titus Dane is determined to loot one.

When Sir Titus kidnaps Edward’s parents, Edward, his sisters, and their mysterious cousin set off in pursuit across the Martian wilderness. Together they must battle Sir Titus’s minions, dodge hungry pterodactyls, and escape fearsome Martian hunting machines in order to rescue Edward’s parents and uncover the secrets of the dragon tomb.

Secrets of the Dragon Tomb by Patrick Samphire is a classic adventure story, full of fun, humor and heart with stunning illustrations by Jeremy Holmes throughout.

FORMAT: Secrets of the Dragon Tomb is a children's sci-fi/fantasy novel. It has historical elements, mystery, adventure, space travel, aliens, dragons, dinosaurs, and lots of creepy-crawly bugs/creatures. The novel stands at 322 pages. It was published on January 12, 2016 by Henry Holt and Company.  

ANALYSIS: When it comes to writing – and publishing – there is a desire to stick with what works. Authors and publishers alike are often afraid to step too far out of the literary world's comfort zone in a fear that something won't work. This leads to a slew of novels that are good, but relatively lacking in originality. So, imagine my surprise when I encountered the children's novel, Secrets of the Dragon Tomb, which definitely doesn't conform to the norm.

Secrets of the Dragon Tomb is a children's novel that mixes so much into a small novel. It has sci-fi elements, steampunk, English history, a little romance, adventure, and a touch of humor. This might seem like a hodgepodge of elements that when combined wouldn't work out, but Secrets of the Dragon Tomb makes it work.

Readers are taken back in time to 1816, but it isn't like anything you would expect. In this alternative world, Britain has successfully colonized Mars. Travel to and from, and even around, Mars is made possible by dragon pathways. Everything from the way people talk and act to the style of the homes and even the society hierarchy is similar to what would happen in 1816 Britain; the only difference is that people live on Mars. Living on Mars has its challenges, there are unique creatures that may or may not be friendly, native Martians, dinosaurs, and lots of undiscovered areas that could hold untold riches.

In this first novel of the series, we are introduced to Edward, a young 12-year old boy, who lives on British Mars. Edward longs to have exciting adventures that are similar to what he reads about in the books he loves, but he hasn't had the opportunity to experience these types of adventures. Edward's adventure begins when his father's steampunk-style invention known as the water abacus attracts the attention of some bad guys, the family goes missing, and somehow this all seems linked to the rumor that there is an undiscovered dragon tomb somewhere on Mars.

I absolutely loved Secrets of the Dragon Tomb, more than I thought I would like it. I was unsure how all the elements of sci-fi, space, steampunk, adventure, and history would mix together, but it was extremely well-done.

The first thing that jumps out at you Secrets of the Dragon Tomb is the world building. It is done in a way that makes it easily to understand what is going on. It isn't 'dumbed down' for children, but it is done in a way that makes it easy for younger readers to get an understanding of the historical and unique aspects. Even though it is geared towards the younger reader, older readers will be able to enjoy the world building as it doesn't feel as if it is solely geared to the youngest reader. In fact, I think older readers will be able to appreciate how much work went into creating such a detailed world.

The characters in Secrets of the Dragon Tomb didn't really grab my attention at first. Most of my focus was on the world building and action, but slowly the characters started to grow on me. By the end of the book, I had grown super attached to them and was ready for the next adventure.

I will say at times the humor isn't laugh out loud funny. It is more light hearted and will certainly put a smile on your face. Many times the definition of humor in children's books is farting, burping, and other juvenile elements. That isn't the case with Secrets of the Dragon Tomb. The humor is age appropriate for children, but it will still appeal to adults, too.

Overall, I loved Secrets of the Dragon Tomb. I wasn't 100% certain what I would get when I started reading it, but it was amazingly well done. I was surprised to see how well the historical, sci-fi, steampunk, adventure, dinosaur elements blended together. It was also refreshing to see an author willing to take a risk with his novel and have it work out.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for something different, but who doesn't want to spend a lot of time reading a doorstopper novel. It is also great for children who are tired of seeing the same old, same old or for those who aren't committed to reading traditional fantasy novels. The adventure, mystery, and fast pace of this novel is enough to capture the attention of readers young and old.


Kim Aippersbach said...

I thought this book was so fun, and I'm greatly looking forward to exploring the world more in the second book.


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