Saturday, February 23, 2008

Jason Hightman

The Saint of Dragons
by Jason Hightman
Recommended Age: 12+

Simon St. George has spent his entire life, as far as he remembers, at the Lighthouse School for Boys. He is hurt by the way all the other boys believe he is a poor orphan who is allowed to stay at the school out of charity. He knows, but cannot prove, that his parents are alive and paying his tuition. Only, this doesn’t make him feel any better, because it only means that his parents don’t want him around. He wouldn’t know them if he met them.

Which is why, when two different men show up at the Lighthouse School for Boys and claim to be Simon’s father, he isn’t sure which one to believe. He was starting to incline toward the rich-looking man in white, when the other guy – a wild, unkempt man with bad manners and an abrasive personality – pulls him onto the back of a horse and rides off into a foggy Halloween night.

If you’re trying to imagine Simon’s shock at this point, forget it. Bigger shocks are yet to come, like a new lifestyle onboard a Ship with No Name that sails with the aid of magical machines, while Simon gets to know his father – a dragon hunter named Aldric, who claims that Simon is the last of the line descended from the original St. George. Their mission together is to destroy the last of the dragons on earth – dragons who have learned to hide in the midst of the human population, stealing and hoarding and preying.

They begin by saving a beautiful woman from a fiery fate, and from there embark on a globetrotting battle against a conspiracy of fire-worms that could destroy the whole world. It all goes a bit fast for Simon, whose education so far has done little to prepare him for shooting crossbows, swinging swords, and vanquishing creatures full of ancient cunning and malice. Each dragon has its own interesting quirks, but the most dangerous dragon is the one who drives a wedge between father and son, and lures the boy to a gathering of unprecedented power and evil.

This is a funny, action-packed, fast-paced adventure with a bit of romance and a memorably rocky father-son relationship. The dragons are flamboyant (er, no pun intended), the magic is interesting, and there is charm and suspense to spare. What the story lacks in detail and credibility, it makes up with a modern fairy tale’s flair for deliberate absurdity and the unexpectedly realistic way the main characters never seem to say what they need to say to each other. For even while they are racing to save the world, the biggest monster Simon and Aldric have to vanquish exists between them.

Samurai
by Jason Hightman
Recommended Age: 13+

In this sequel to The Saint of Dragons, Simon St. George and his father Aldric continue their crusade against the dragons that disguise themselves as people and feed off the misery of human beings. When a dragon attacks their home, Alaythia - their magician, a vital part of their team - realizes her personal feelings for Aldric put them all in danger. She runs away, but Aldric and Simon set off after her.

The trail leads the St. Georges to Japan, where they are shocked to find out they are not the only dragon hunters in the world. In fact, a certain small, Japanese schoolboy turns out to be Simon's long-lost cousin, a true St. George with the gift of seeing through dragon magic. Protected by a handful of modern-day samurai warriors and his own mother, who is a powerful magician herself, Kyoshi (a.k.a. "Key") immediately starts following Simon into trouble. Meanwhile, Aldric and the samurai - particularly Taro, the boy's stepfather - clash as only powerful personalities, huge egos, and vastly different cultures can.

But even greater conflict is near at hand. Japan's dragon is a doctor of death with a newfound power to breathe flames of colossal, city-destroying power. The St. Georges and the samurai follow him to India, where a female serpent known as the Tiger Dragon waits, either to mate or to do battle with her opposite number from Japan. A fiendish ice dragon from the Swiss Alps lurks behind the scenes, scribbling and plotting the downfall of mankind. And in the end all hope depends on two diametrically opposite groups of dragon hunters working together, and on a couple of hot-headed kids doing the right thing.

So, it's basically the end of the world.

Or is it? That's what you'll find out by reading this exciting adventure. I think you'll enjoy the clash of cultures, the scintillating imagery of endless varieties of dragons, and the fathers and sons who talk exactly the way they do in real life -- namely, right past each other. In this book two sons are astonished to discover people their fathers have an even harder time communicating with than themselves!

Hopefully it isn't giving up too much to say that this series looks like it could go on, and could continue to entertain us in grand style, as Simon grows up and grapples with loneliness and asks too many questions (or, in the case of this book, not enough questions) and tries to earn his father's respect without becoming his father, and as the hunt for evil serpents takes a colorful cast of characters to every strange and far-flung corner of the world.

2 comments:

Luna said...

will there be a third book?

Robbie F. said...

I don't know, but according to the author's website, there is going to be a movie based on the first book.