Friday, February 12, 2021

Breath of the Dragon

Breath of the Dragon
by A.L. Tait
Recommended Ages: 11+

Since he received a bump on the head during an encounter with pirates, young mapmaker Quinn Freeman has been struggling with his memory. Meanwhile, the crew of the the Libertas and their captain, a slave who aspires to be free, continue their race to be the first ship to travel around the world and come back with treasure and an accurate map. In this installment, the Libertases encounter a land that trembles and burns with something like the dragon fire that legend says lurks off the edge of the world. They also face an angry mob, betrayal, slander, robbery, capture by Captain Zain's own countrymen who hold a dim view of his role in their war with Quinn's people. And finally, they must face a king back home whose decision about who won the race may be influenced more by a couple of phony maps than by the real one.

Quinn is a remarkable kid. Besides his mental gifts, he possesses a kind and loyal heart, true courage and the ability to make quick decisions in a pinch. He's the heart the holds the crew of the Libertas together, but he spends a lot of this book worried about his head. His adventure schools him in accepting painful disappointment, but don't count him out of the running for a terrific triumph.

As for Quinn's world, it maps out differently from the world we live in (even in its age of discovery) but it has a lot in common, too. I've known books set on sailing ships to show a more convincing mastery of sailing terms and to paint more vivid imagery of the sea, but give Quinn his due; he's not a sailor, just a farm boy who draws beautiful maps. And he has a lot more to pay attention to the difference between a stairway and a companionway – like secrets, some of them guilty; like a complex weave of conflicting agendas between characters on the Libertas and other ships, as well as on land; like differences in culture and background with his friends and others less friendly; and like the line between life and death, which at least two beloved characters approach with powerful emotional effect.

This is the third book of the "Mapmaker Chronicles," and brings what seems to be a trilogy to a satisfying end. It blends strange surprises with the pleasurably expected and ties up many story threads quite neatly. However, there is now a fourth books in the set, Beyond the Edge of the Map. Australian author Allison Tait has also published two "Ateban Cipher" books and a mystery titled The Fire Star. She is also the co-author with Valerie Khoo of an upcoming nonfiction work, So You Want to Be a Writer.

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