The Dragon Whisperer Review by Amanda Craig of The Sunday Times
Dragons are probably the most popular magical creatures in children’s literature, and for that reason need careful handling — the line between familiarity and cliché is a fine one.
Yet within minutes of beginning The Dragon Whisperer, I found myself beaming. Despite the pedestrian prose, the feisty but noble heroine, the slimy hobgoblins and the evil dark Mage of utter predictability, what Hare has produced is one of the most captivating new books for 8+ to be published for some time. What is the secret?
It certainly isn’t the plot. Quenelda is yet another Child of Destiny in that she has a special, magical bond with dragons from the moment she’s born, and can exchange thoughts with them as “Dancing With Dragons”. (OK, but if you like fantasy, as I do, you lap this stuff up.) Her mother’s identity is a secret, but her father is an Earl in charge of the elite Stealth Dragon Services.
When we see Quenelda next, she’s 11 and helping to splint the tail of a highly dangerous battledragon called Two Gulps and You’re Gone. At this point you suddenly sit up because anyone who has imagined what it would be like actually to live and work with intelligent, flying, fearsome reptiles would give it just this kind of name, rather than the sort of nonsense people who have overdosed on Tolkien go for.
Quenelda is a perfectly sweet heroine, and it’s nice to see girls being given a slice of the action because there have been too many heroes of late with female sidekicks who never quite take centre stage. Her loneliness is sympathetically drawn, as is her growing friendship with her dwarf equerry, Root.
The author is terrific at action scenes, and when Root’s father dies bringing back vital information about the hobgoblins you can be absolutely sure that no eight-year-old will be able to resist reading more. Like the best kind of pony novel, it goes into satisfying detail about how to care for a dragon, put on its saddle, fly it, befriend it and call it when your father is in deadly danger during battle. It made me laugh, cry and remember exactly what’s so special about the time when you or your child live in hope of finding a dragon of your own.