Book Review: “Dragon’s Blood” by Jane Yolen

I’m back with another book review, and this time I’m reviewing “Dragon’s Blood” by Jane Yolen! It’s another dragon-themed book much like “Eragon” and “Wings of Fire,” so I’m excited to review this one. Here’s a summary so we know what it’s about:

“Dragons are trained to fight to the death, and two determined teens help free them in this spellbinding saga.

Training a dragon to be a fighting champion is the only way to freedom for fifteen-year-old Jakkin.”

Worldbuilding Development: 3.5 out of 5 stars

The summary above is short,  but it’s very to-the-point. Yes, dragons are trained to fight to the death, and it seems to be so for years, given how normal it is to our characters in the present events of the book. The book’s worldbuilding was the strongest part, as a whole. Yes, it has its sexist tones similarly to books such as “Untamed City” and “Glasshouse,” given how the book does talk at length about the “bag girls” and there is no mention of whether there are dragon masters that are female (though it seems unlikely, given how there are mentions that the women try to be pairbonded with others and that Akki mentions that she doesn’t let a man fill her bags monetarily because it implies they want something—likely sexual favours—in exchange). However, the worldbuilding it gives about the dragons and how they operate is quite interesting, as well as how bonders like Jakkin (basically caretakers of dragons of a sort but in a barely-better-than-slaves sort of position) can get out of their roles by trying to become dragon masters themselves.

I also liked the descriptions of how the tournaments worked, but I hoped to see more than what was shown in-person. It’s talked about a lot, but we don’t see a lot of fighting matches until the last third of the book.

Character Development: 3 out of 5 stars

The main five characters we get to know are Jakkin, Akki, Sarkkhan, Likkarn and Heart’s Blood (the dragon that Jakkin raises after initially stealing its egg). However, out of all of them, we mainly get to know Jakkin and Akki, especially in the latter half of the book. It’s hard to like Jakkin at first, but eventually I sympathized with him as a reader for his goal of wanting to be a dragon master to escape being a bonder for the rest of his life, especially given his backstory of previously living as a free man prior to his father’s death and, consequentially, Jakkin’s mother selling herself and Jakkin into bonder work to stay financially secure prior to the mother dying a month later from grief. However, it’s hard to see much development in him other than his caring and raising Heart’s Blood and his romance with Akki otherwise.

Akki, on the other hand, actually does get a lot of development in a way. She develops a trust/friendship of sorts with Jakkin despite her being rather wary of men (and for good reason) and Sarkkhan in particular, but she doesn’t hesitate to leave that relationship with Jakkin when he won’t let her have the independence she wants by the end of the book. She knows what she wants to do, she’s not letting anyone stop her, but she’s willing to help out others as well (Jakkin in particular) when they need that help.

Romance Development: 1 out of 5 stars

This is where the book is weakest, mainly because the romance comes off as one-sided. I could certainly see Akki and Jakkin getting along at first, but their clashing views and actions, especially by the latter half of the book (Akki wanting to be more independent and support herself while Jakkin conforms to the norms of dragon masters having wives, and thus insisting by the end that Akki must stay with him once Sarkkhan virtually gives Jakkin Akki’s hand in marriage without her consent) made me like this pairing a lot less (it also doesn’t help that both of them are only around 15-16 years old at the time). Akki does make the choice to leave the relationship, running off on her own. Jakkin is still determined to be with her, but I have no idea how that romance will end (or continue, depending on how things go) until I read the next three books in this series. As it is right now, however, it’s not well-written, and if I do continue this series, I hope that it gets better development from here or it gets dropped entirely.

Plot Development: 2.5 out of 5 stars

The main plot doesn’t really have a lot to it, and it does lag at times. It takes a while before the actual stealing of the egg happens, and then even longer before we see the dragon have its first (and only) fight in the whole book. The rest of the plot between those two events  fills in worldbuiliding explanations, give details on Jakkin raising and training Heart’s Blood, and supplements a romance subplot of sorts between Jakkin and Akki (admittedly more one-sided than I hoped for, and I’ll elaborate on that soon).

I wish there was more emphasis on the risk of Jakkin stealing the egg and trying to keep Heart’s Blood hidden from everyone else. Yes, it’s repeated throughout the book that stealing a hatchling was an even worse crime than just the egg (because eggs don’t guarantee hatchlings, while a hatchling already exists as is), but there isn’t a lot of tension placed on that part of the story, which I was disappointed with. However, I did like the twist at the end revealing that Sarkkhan actually knew about Jakkin stealing the egg the entire time, and that he used it as the opportunity to test Jakkin to see if he could rise above being a bonder and become a master.

Overall, I’m rating this book 2.5 out of 5 stars!

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