by Julia Golding
"Princess Taoshira of the Blue Crescent Islands is appalled when she is ordered to marry Prince Ramil of Gerfal. And he's not too pleased, either. She is used to a life of discipline, ritual, and splendor. He is used to hunting and carousing. They hate each other on sight. But both of their countries are under threat from a fearsome warlord, and the only chance of peace is to form an alliance.
When Tashi and Ram are kidnapped, they fear there's no escape--from their kidnappers or from each other. Can they put aside their differences long enough to survive ambush, unarmed combat, brainwashing, and imprisonment? And will the people they meet on their adventure--including a circus strongman, a daring rebel leader, a sinister master of spies, and the best female fighter they have ever seen--help them or betray them to the enemy? "
I was very surprised by this one. I've had it in the library for 3 years, and available on my Kindle for quite some time, but I just was never very interested. I finally decided to read it and actually loved it! I think it might have been the cover -it never really reached out and grabbed me. But the dragonfly IS a very important part of the book (obviously, since that is the title), so I can see why they used this cover. And oh my goodness, while writing this I have just noticed that besides the dragonfly, there is the shadow of a girl's face in the background. So it IS a great cover! How have I never noticed that before?!
Dragonfly is a fantasy in the manner of The Princess Bride , but without all the tongue-in-cheek humor. Not that there isn't humor in this one, but it is more of a natural humor rather than the wink-wink, nudge-nudge kind of humor. (That makes it sound like I am disparaging The Princess Bride , but I love that book!) In this one we have a princess with very formal etiquette and a strict code of behavior unwillingly betrothed to a prince with very different ways. The two take an instant dislike to each other, and when forced to spend time together away from the palace they are kidnapped by circus performers (including a giant). That is when the action really begins. There are many intense moments where one or both are tortured and their lives are threatened. Through these experiences they grow to appreciate each other and eventually realize they are in love. Then of course they are separated, with each of them thinking the other either dead or enslaved (with an awesome Lord of the Rings-ish cliff jump involved). The road back to each other is also full of intense action and drama.
One other thing I loved about this one is how the author dealt with the different cultures and religions in the story. It was all done very respectfully and we were just kind of shown the differences. There was good and bad, and faith wavered and then was reaffirmed. The main characters made tremendous growth throughout their ordeal.
I loved the secondary characters as well, and thought they were drawn very thoughtfully. Gordoc, the giant, was such a loyal friend and companion - I loved him. All of the friends they made along the way were well-drawn. The villain, Fergox Spearthrower, is incredibly evil and narcissisitic, but hugely entertaining. Really, this book has it all! I'm not sure why it has remained so low-key in my library, but I will definitely be recommending it to one and all. Even recommended for grandpas to read to sick grandsons (although there is some very mild kissing :) ). I really loved it and may have to purchase my own copy just for fun.
Areas of concern:
*Quite a bit of violence, but nothing really graphic.
*I don't remember any bad language.
*Intense life or death moments.
*A couple of characters talk of "bedding".
*Sweet, mild romance with a little kissing and then a honeymoon that ends with a husband suggesting his wife return his shirt to him (she's wearing it at the time).
Suggested Ages (really varied on this one... I think it is fine for 6th graders):
Booklist - Grades 6-9
Kirkus Reviews - Ages 11-13
Kirkus Reviews - Ages 11-13
School Library Journal - Grades 8+