DNF @ p. 220
Nobody can tell me that I didn't give ANYA AND THE DRAGON a fair shot. I valiantly struggled through 200+ pages of this book before deciding that it probably wasn't for me.
There are a lot of things that make this book seem promising: the beautiful cover, dragons, the Russian-Jewish culture, the background of oppression and potential for revolution. This book takes place in an alternative version of Europe where magic is banned and Jewish people are still being discriminated against. Anya has magic and is also Jewish, and is inwardly raging at the cruel minions of the czar who are exacerbating her family's debt. If she can beat the evil Northern European dragon slayer to the dragon, she can help pay it off... but are dragons really evil?
I love the idea of monster hunters and in fact recently read and reviewed another book with monster bounties called NOT EVEN BONES, although it's much darker than this book and intended for an older audience. By contrast, ANYA AND THE DRAGON doesn't even bother to hide the fact that it's intended for middle grade, and the result is a narrative style that is bland and patronizing.
I know some people find this style of book cozy and inoffensive, but I like some grit in my reads. I think a lot of kids do, too. They want to read things that made them feel grown up, not talked down to. I'm not saying that we should try to scare children, but it doesn't hurt to make characters nuanced and worlds scary; kids understand complicated topics as long as it's explained in a way they can understand. And I know middle grade can do this, because I've seen Holly Black and other authors carry it off. But Anya is such a little Mary Sue and nothing about her or her world grabbed me, so I think I'm going to save myself another 100+ pages of frustration and call it quits while I'm ahead.
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!
1 out of 5 stars