A Darkness of Dragons by S.A. Patrick
Publication date: September 2018
Summary from Goodreads:
After playing a forbidden spell-song to save a village from rats, 12-year-old piper Patch Brightwater is thrown in jail. But there he meets Wren – a noble girl under a rat-shaped curse – and together they befriend Barver, a fearsome dracogriff, and set off on a grand adventure filled with sorcerers, dragons, bandits…and one very deadly enemy.
From the depths of the Tiviscan dungeons to the highest peak of Gemspar Mountain, this stunning book reminds us of the soaring joy of adventure, the captivating danger of magic, and of the delight of finding friends in unexpected places.
I saw a review of this book earlier in the year and knew that I just had to read this. It was a bit of a wait to get my hands on the book because I could only get it from the UK. I don’t think it is available in the States, but I certainly hope it will be one day soon. This was a great start to a wonderful middle grade series, that I am sure many kids will fall in love with.
I somehow missed, or more likely forgot, that this is a Pied Piper retelling. I sort of saw the word dragon and ignored the rest of the summary. It takes place after the incident at Hamelin, but the Piper of that story does come into this one. In this retelling he is even more evil than we know from the original. I always felt a bit sorry for the original piper, but this one gets no sympathy from me. He is just the right amount of evil that villains need to be.
Patch on the other hand is a delight. He makes a lot of mistakes, which often gets him into trouble, but he has a good heart and means well. Wren is also a delight, even though she spends most of the book in rat form. I loved that Patch teaches her a sign language so that they can communicate easily. Barver, who is a dracogriff (half dragon, half griffen) is also a great character. It was fun learning about him and about dragons from him.
The story was fast paced and kept you interested to the very end. I loved the twists and turns that kept you guessing. There are some darker moments in the story, that more sensitive readers should be aware of. Patch is sent to a pretty harsh prison and is not treated very well there. The part with the Pied Piper is also somewhat creepy and very dark. But most of the rest of the story is a delightful adventure full of interesting lands, cultures and people.
One of the best parts of this story though is the music. As you can imagine the music the pipers create is magical and can do some wonderful things. But as with most things wonderful, people can always find a way to make it into something evil. The descriptions of the music made it come alive and often I could hear what the author was describing.
I can’t wait to share this wonderful book with my students. I think they will love it as much as I do. Hopefully we won’t have to wait long for the next adventure for this wonderful trio.