The Girl with the Dragon Heart

Foreword Reviews - - Spotlight Reviews | Juvenile Fiction - MICHELLE ANNE SCHINGLER

Stephanie Bur­gis Blooms­bury (NOVEM­BER) Hard­cover $16.99 (288pp) 978-1-68119-697-8

Thir­teen-year-old Silke is the hero­ine of her own story—a girl who knows that you “never, ever let a dragon han­dle diplo­macy,” since a dragon’s idea of diplo­macy is to point out that dragons don’t eat hu­mans…any­more. She works not far from the royal cas­tle, both at her fam­ily’s sec­ond­hand cloth­ing stall and at the Choco­late Heart, a shop whose del­i­ca­cies are craved by kings and dragons alike.

For read­ers if not for the towns­peo­ple, Silke is all charm, though she’s less con­fi­dent than she comes off. She wears pants be­cause they’re eas­ier, sports third­hand waist­coats as a mat­ter of style, and spins fan­ci­ful sto­ries with ab­so­lute con­vic­tion. But one of her sto­ries fi­nally puts her in an un­com­fort­able spot: she finds her­self called be­fore the royal princess, who charges her with spy­ing on the Elfen­wald roy­als and (gulp) pos­ing as one of the aris­toc­racy her­self.

Be­neath Silke’s bravado hides tremen­dous pain. Her par­ents dis­ap­peared into the elves’ woods years be­fore, leav­ing her alone with a brother who is in­creas­ingly dis­tant. She longs to feel safe again. Un­til the princess’s prom­ise of a home in the cas­tle, only her friend­ship with Aven­turine—a young dragon un­der en­chant­ment and in hu­man form—gave her that safety. With the elves in town, she fi­nally has the op­por­tu­nity to prove her­self to her doubters, and po­ten­tially to find out what hap­pened to her mom and dad.

Stephanie Bur­gis’s mid­dle grade fan­tasy sparkles with ap­peal­ing at­tributes: its ten­der­scaled young dragon, its cayenne-laced choco­late del­i­ca­cies, its wicked elves who nurse old grudges. But the true star of this show is in­de­pen­dent girl­hood. Silke, Aven­turine, and the princess Sophia’s free­dom comes through rec­og­niz­ing that they are pow­er­ful not where they fit in, but in the ways that they stand out.

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