The Fire Within by Chris D'Lacey (Book Review)

Phyl CampbellStarred Page By Phyl Campbell, 16th Sep 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/f7nvcqas/
Posted in Wikinut>Reviews>Books>Children's Books

A college student named David, renting a room for the term, gets a bit more than he bargained for at the Pennykettle house with its dragon-sculpting housemum and her daughter Lucy.

The Fire Within (The Last Dragon Chronicles #1)

The Fire Within (The Last Dragon Chronicles #1)
Chris D’Lacey
Scholastic Press
2001
341 pages


Looking at this book, with the big green dragon on its cover, one might expect The Fire Within to be a high-fantasy sword and sorcery dragon book. It isn’t. David is a perfectly reasonable 20 year old college student living in a house with a dragon-sculpture artist (Liz) and her spirited daughter Lucy. Because the rent is cheap and the food is excellent, David does his best to ingratiate himself to the pre-teen, and she rewards him nearly immediately with his own dragon figurine, Gadzooks.

Fantasy or Fact

Though both ladies are very kind to their tenant, David feels that Liz is hiding things from him. Whatever she is hiding relates to the dragons somehow. Lucy nearly spills the beans several times, but is caught and shushed by her mother. When Lucy does spill, sometimes the things she says are easily dismissed as the high fantasy of little girls who haven’t traded in their belief in dragons and unicorns for cell phones and pajama parties -- yet.

Much closer to home, Lucy expresses strong concern for missing squirrels that used to play in her yard. The neighbor cut down the tree that was their home, and one of the squirrels was seriously injured. While David may not think himself creative enough to join Lucy in her dragon games, figuring out what happened to the squirrels is a down-to-earth challenge that his nature-bent mind (he’s studying geography at college) can tackle.

One could read this book taking the perspective that dragons are real and David just needs to realize that in order to unlock his potential in many other areas of his life. One could also take the perspective that “the fire within” is figurative, not literal, and that when David allows his creativity to be unleashed, powerful things can happen.

Those who believe that books with dragons on their covers should be all about dragons are going to be disappointed in this book. (Check out Goodreads for many such instances of unhappy readers.)

Those who take the second approach are generally more satisfied. The Fire Within presents a charming story of a young man who had been taken under the wing of a successful artisan. D’Lacey does an excellent job of capturing the split feelings of amusement and annoyance a twenty-year-old male would have for a nine-year-old girl who appears smitten with him while he is a guest in her home.

Read Aloud Tips

My son and I loved this book as a nightly read-aloud, but if I'd known these two things in advance, I'd have had an easier time.

“Hrrr” should be like the sound of a blowing furnace or a lit torch – the cat noise I made in the beginning was not right. It took me a while to realize what sound I needed to make. But another great dragon is here to help (watch the video).

Practice saying “Caractacus,” because it occurs more than once. I settled on “kerr-act-uh-cuss.” When I first saw the name, I really butchered it.

Parting Thoughts

The way that Lucy interacted with David and her mother was spot on in terms of demeanor and dialogue. When another human character is introduced late in the story, she isn’t nearly so well done (I often thought she was Lucy or Liz), but the relationship between the three main characters is quite charming. Icefire is the next book in The Last Dragon Chronicles series. More characters are being introduced off the bat, so we will see how D’Lacey handles them.

Image credits: Preview photo courtesy of Goodreads, "Fact of Fiction" image is part of the book's forward. The Worldle (this section) is my creation with the help of Wordle.com. The YouTube video is courtesy of YouTube and is the property of its respective owner.

Further Reading

If you like books with a mix of grounded characters and fantastic tales, check out my other reviews

The Wall and the Wing
The Frog Princess
The Magic Wakes
The Primrose Way
A Foreign Field
Almost Magic
Her Blood’s Warning
The Fledgling

Tags

Bonnington, Book, Book About Dragons, Book About Squirrels, Book Review, Caractacus, Cat Bonnington, Childrens, Childrens Book, Chris Dlacey, Conker, Creativity, David, Dlacey, Dragon, Fantasy, Fantasy Book, Fiction Book, Fire, Fire Within, Gadzooks, Gawain, Guinevere, Liz, Lucy, Novel, Review, Sculptor, Snigger, Sophie, Squirrel, Wildlife Rescue, Wuzzle

Meet the author

author avatar Phyl Campbell
I am "Author, Mother, Dreamer." I am also teacher, friend, Dr. Pepper addict, night-owl. Visit my website -- phylcampbell.com -- or the "Phyl Campbell Author Page" on Facebook.

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Comments

author avatar cnwriter..carolina
16th Sep 2014 (#)

wow Phyl you write a cool review for sure...

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
17th Sep 2014 (#)

Thanks, Carolina! Dragons make it easy! ;)

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author avatar Lee Hansen
16th Sep 2014 (#)

Phyl loved this book review. I would have been like David and rented that room to at such a cheap price. We all need to unleash ourselves and discover the fun things in life.

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
17th Sep 2014 (#)

Absolutely! David's a neat character.

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author avatar Fern Mc Costigan
16th Sep 2014 (#)

Wonderful review and very elaborate and intricate in every word mate, cheers!

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
17th Sep 2014 (#)

Thanks so much, Fern!

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author avatar spirited
17th Sep 2014 (#)

good balancing reporting Phyl.

I can see more-or less-exactly what the book would be about. That's the sign of a good review!

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
17th Sep 2014 (#)

Thanks, Spirited! I was really surprised to see the negative reviews, until I thought about the fact that so many people do judge books by their covers. Meanwhile, I do hope I didn't spoil anything! I don't think I did -- but it was HARD with this one!!

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author avatar snerfu
17th Sep 2014 (#)

Your all-round reporting makes interesting reading. Now I keep looking at squirrels and pigeons with a different perspective, though there may not be much magic there. Great going Phyl.

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
17th Sep 2014 (#)

We should always think squirrels have a bit of magic, I think. How else would they live outside in trees with their nuts while we have to have homes and heavy heavy coats in the snow. Glad you found it interesting reading!

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
17th Sep 2014 (#)

Interesting review without giving anything away, thanks Phyl. To write such books one needs creativity and feel for characters in various stages of life with different emotional feelings too - siva

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
17th Sep 2014 (#)

Thanks, Siva! You always seem to know what I need to hear! Not spoiling the plot for anyone is a big concern of mine in doing book reviews, but for an author, being well read and being able to articulate what works will help me write my own fiction better. Ideally, at least. ;)

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author avatar Kingwell
18th Sep 2014 (#)

Good review.

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author avatar Retired
20th Sep 2014 (#)

Well written review, Phyl! Makes me want to grab a copy and dive right in.

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
26th Oct 2014 (#)

Thanks!

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author avatar AjaySinghChauhan
25th Oct 2014 (#)

vary intersecting post and thanks for sharing it with us.

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
26th Oct 2014 (#)

AjaySinghChauhan, I think (hope) you meant interesting. Thank you.

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