5-stars for ‘The Girl Who Rode Dragons,’ by Arthur Butt.
‘Fun and inspiring’
When approaching the review of a fantasy novel, one must ask five fundamental questions. And perhaps a billion others. (Okay, maybe not a billion. But a lot.)
- Is it engaging on a level suitable for the target audience?
- Would it engage and satisfy readers outside that target range? Adult readers.
- Does it bring in fresh ideas?
- Did it transport me out of my real world and into the fantasy realm creation of the writer?
- Does it make a statement? Some semblance of the writer’s social, moral, political or philosophical intent that drove him/her to pen this story?
There are other questions one uses when critiquing a novel. Of any genre. Does the author understand story structure? Does the story touch the reader on an emotional level? Are the characters believable and well-developed? Is there a hero with a clearly defined goal? Does the author entice the reader to care that the hero/protagonist reaches that goal? Is the plot coherent? And perhaps 100 (Better?) others that deal more with the minutia of good storytelling.
I would argue, after having read, ‘The Girl Who Rode Dragons,’ that this story satisfies all these questions.
The book targets young readers but is certainly a satisfying read for those of us who’ve somehow managed to sustain our imaginations and know how to step away from reality for a fun adventure into a realm where magic and magical creatures exist and where one is freed from the constraints of our rational minds. Those disrespectful overlords of ours determined to make us scoff at whimsical creativity and have a bad time while reading something fun.
The book is certainly engaging – For young and mature readers. Standing somewhere between those benchmarks, I found it wonderful. The story follows a young girl who, because she’s a girl, is not allowed to do the one thing she desires most. Ride dragons. How can one not find something like that engaging?
Though one may claim using dragons, a fantasy device used since the Middle Ages, removes that freshness I mentioned, I would argue that Arthur Butt breathed a new approach into this story by making Jackie (The story’s protag) desirous of becoming the town’s first girl dragon rider in a realm where girls are excluded from this quest. (There are many other fresh ideas I’ve chosen to leave for you to explore once you receive your copy of this exceptionally cool book.)
I was certainly transported away and into Mr Butt’s fantasy world. It’s adequately described, and after a while, I was right there with Jackie when the dragon egg she finds hatches looking ahead to her eventually riding it.
There are several praiseworthy statements in this clever, imaginative story including: ‘Girls are as capable as boys and should be treated as equals,’ and ‘You can achieve your goals if you believe in yourself and persevere.’
As for the billion, well, one hundred, other questions I consider when critiquing a book, I will offer this brief summary:
Yes: Mr Butt is a fine storyteller who understands story structure, character development, the hero’s journey, and all other facets of good storytelling.
Yes: Jackie (The protag) has a clearly defined goal, and I was cheering her on as she…. (Just click the link in the book cover and get a copy, okay?)
Yes: The characters are believable. Strip away the fantasy, place them in a present-day context and they’d fit right in. The family interactions are real. As is Jackie’s rebellious personality. Transpose the quest to ride dragons into a quest to play football, or be on the maths club, and the story would still work. Well!
Yes: I wanted Jackie to reach her goal from the first scene when she stated her desire.
What I liked most:
This is a well-written story that follows a logical path with many rewards along the way. I love a story that entices you to care about the main character and fills a nicely mapped outline with fresh ideas, sentimental circumstances and meaningful statements.
Jackie (Jaqueline) is driven, determined, rebellious, sweet and lovable. Arthur Butt is equally good with writing characters as he is with story. I played The Girl Who Rode Dragons in my mind as a film, and, as a writer and screenwriter, I was drawn into the idea of converting this to a film script and pitching it to those clever writer / directors over at Disney and Pixar.
I have but one. Certainly, nothing that would preclude me from handing this a 5-star rating and my highest recommendation.
Short chapters, concentrating on one scene or scene sequence, work better with young readers. Their attention spans are held in a tighter grasp when a chapter begins on a beat and moves logically through to a closing point. Though the author’s chapters are not long, I believe this book would reach an even a younger audience with shorter, more concise chapters.
Summary and Recommendation:
‘The Girl Who Rode Dragons,’ by Arthur Butt, offers everything an avid fantasy reader looks for in a novel and more. It’s sentimental without being maudlin or gushy. It’s intelligent, inspirational, and above all, it’s fun.
I give the ‘The Girl Who Rode Dragons,’ by Arthur Butt a 5-star rating and my highest recommendation.
Review by T. E. Mark – Writer / Screenwriter.