________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 39. . . .June 10, 2016


Dragons vs. Drones.

Wesley King.
Toronto, ON: Razorbill/Penguin Random House, 2016.
283 pp., hardcover, $21.99.
ISBN 978-1-59514-797-4.

Subject Headings:
Dragons-Juvenile fiction.
Drone aircarft-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Kim Aippersbach.

***˝ /4


The drone suddenly veered right, trying to escape, and Baby Hybrid followed in the fastest way possible—a quick barrel roll. Marcus wasn't ready. The g-forces ripped his hands from Dree's waist and sent him flying off of Baby Hybrid's back, his arms flailing desperately as he dropped out of the sky. Dree screamed and tried to grab his arm, but she was too late.

It was a strange sensation, falling backward as the cold wind buffeted him while dragons and drones raced across the sky shooting bullets and flames at one another. It was so surreal that Marcus almost forgot to be scared, though he knew he was about a mile up and falling fast. He wouldn't even know when he hit the ground. Maybe that was better.

He saw Dree turning Baby Hybrid overhead, but she was already so far away. A drone raced past his head in a flash. Suddenly, something strong caught his shirt, instantly yanking him upward. He shouted and looked up to see beautiful golden scales glistening in the sun. One of the dragons had caught him.


Dragons vs. Drones brings the modern Earth technology of drones into a parallel world with dragons, and two young people have to use all their skills to save the dragons from the drones. Dree, a blacksmith's apprentice in Dracone, is skilled at making small mechanical toys that she can imbue with fire so they power themselves. She also has a dragon friend, Lourdvang, that she rescued as a baby and kept safely hidden. Humans and dragons used to live peaceably together in Dracone, but a new prime minister has encouraged a policy of hunting dragons. Meanwhile on Earth, Marcus is trying to find out what happened to his father, a former CIA agent who disappeared in a storm eight years ago. Marcus has built and programmed a small drone that he uses to study storms in hopes of learning where his father went.

     On the night of a terrible storm, Marcus notices three drones following him. He heads to the centre of the storm; a portal opens, and he falls into Dracone, almost on top of Dree. Immediately, a number of drones begin attacking the city. Marcus and Dree escape and help get Dree's family to safety. Marcus, assuming the drones came through the portal after him, speculates that they were sent by the U.S. government to claim the resources of Dracone, and he thinks his father must have come to Dracone to try to stop them.

     Marcus, Dree and Lourdvang try to convince the other dragons to fight against the drones, but dragons are unwilling to help humans now. Dree and Marcus build a mechanical dragon out of parts of a downed drone and program it to fight. Baby Hybrid isn't strong enough to fight off all the drones by itself, but some of the dragons help them. It becomes clear that the drones are only targeting the poorer sections of the city, an action which makes no sense to Dree and Marcus.

     When Dree and Marcus sneak into the palace to look for a mysterious energy source that is called the Egg, they discover Marcus's father chained up in a room full of computers. He admits that he created and programmed the drones as a way to fight against the dragons who destroyed his home town after he stole their Egg. It turns out that Marcus is actually Draconian—his father took his baby son to Earth to hide from the dragons. He brought drone technology back to Dracone to help the prime minister, but then the prime minister forced him to reprogram the drones "to destroy anything in Dracone that threatens him … the dragons, the poor, and all who would dare to stand against him."

     Lourdvang and Baby Hybrid help Dree, Marcus and his father escape from the prime minister's clutches, but in the process Baby Hybrid is destroyed. Marcus' father sets up another storm so the three of them can go to Earth and find the Egg that he hid there. The power of the Egg is the only thing that will stop the prime minister from destroying all the dragons in Dracone. Dragons vs. Drones ends with their arrival on Earth.

     Dragons vs. Drones delivers on the promise inherent in its title: it's an action-packed adventure with fantasy and sci-fi elements and lots of aerial battles. The two protagonists are both smart and capable and don't waste any time wondering about the whys and hows of drones attacking; they start right in on a plan to fight them. Most of the other characters are dragons, and human-dragon interactions and dragon society are depicted convincingly. The plot involving Marcus's father and the prime minister is only explained quickly at the end of the book and doesn't bear close examination, but by then readers will already be invested in the fight against the drones. The fact that the drones are actually controlled by Draconians rather than the CIA is a surprising but somewhat disappointing twist as portal stories like this are made more interesting by conflict between the worlds.

     The narration alternates between Marcus and Dree's points of view. They are engaging protagonists with just enough backstory to give them convincing motivations. Their partnership turns into a nice friendship, and the scenes of them collaborating on building Baby Hybrid are fun, if rather unrealistic—they each have exactly the technical skills and know-how they need.

     King's writing is straightforward and efficient. Setting and character are explained when they need to be, with enough details to build a picture but no long-winded descriptions.

     Reluctant readers will find this book easy to grasp and exciting enough to keep them interested. Anyone who likes dragons will enjoy Dragons vs. Drones, and it will also appeal to readers with a technical bent.


Kim Aippersbach is a writer, editor and mother of three living in Vancouver, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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