A few words that describe this story are, ‘vibrant’, ‘confused’ and ‘unfinished’.
It’s a fun tale, it moves at good pace. Its set ten years after the Pied Piper has stolen the children from Hamelyn. While that’s a a fab backdrop, the title is baffling. If you’re expecting a story about dragons you’ll be sorely disappointed. Apart from a very brief cameo, the only dragon in the story is a dracogriff (half dragon, half griffin) who talks and acts like a human.
The hero is, Patch, a failed piper who gets himself into trouble and thrown in jail, the same jail as the Hamelyn Piper. Dragons attack and break the jail walls, killing the Hamelyn Piper and allowing Patch to escape. Adventure ensues, danger is faced and overcome and people turn out not to be who we thought they were.
I say that it’s confused because nothing really sits together in any coherent way. Far too much seems to happen by sheer fluke. As the story opens, Patch has no goal at all, certainly nothing that relates to the events at the end of the story (thereby reducing their significance to him). By chance he meets a girl that’s been turned it a rat and, again by chance, meets Barver the dracogriff. Mid way through (for no apparent reason other than perhaps to create some tension…) Patch is thrown a prophesy about someone who will betray him. This sort of kicks in later on, but not fully. The plot thread with the Hamelyn Piper is not resolved nor are the effects of the prophesy. By the end of the story, Patch hasn’t really changed or learned anything and the book finishes with a line about music which, while obliquely relevant to the story, doesn’t really chime with any of its themes. So it’s fun but a bit confused and directionless and with a misleading title. It’s clearly the first in a planned series, so we can expect resolution of plot lines later but I still feel that a more satisfying arc should have been woven into this first outing.
The world building is good though and the tie-in to the Pied Piper does carry the story well. I’m sure children will enjoy it but it could have been made so much more memorable.
Rating out of 5: ♦♦♦
Suggested age: 7-12 years