The Dragon’s Tooth: Ashtown Burials 1 by N.D. Wilson – a review

Typically my reviews are less reviewish and more analysis, but what does that matter? They are all pretty informative so what do you expect of this one? Okay, you see the cover? Kid with dark hair, the author’s name has two initials and the last name, the title has a mythical quality and the first thing that comes to mind is… That’s a bit too easy isn’t it? I honestly can’t look at YA fiction the same anymore. JK Rowling has literally changed the landscape to the extent that whenever I see a kid on a book cover I automatically place the book into my “The Next Harry Potter Replacement”. Which honestly isn’t fair to the author or the narrative, but that is just the way it is.  When I read the Percy Jackson series, I felt the same way, and I actually enjoyed that series. I even picked up the Red Pyramid and read it. I hadn’t read anything by N.D. Wilson before. As a matter of fact, I didn’t purchase The Dragon’s Tooth. It was a gift from my play mom who thought my son might enjoy the book since it had been featured on NPR. I began reading The Dragon’s Tooth right before the Christmas Holidays and amidst all of the small business craziness I finished fairly fast which means one thing… I enjoyed the narrative. While the book only shares it’s mythical adventure qualities with Harry Potter the comparisons stop there. I would have to say it is closer to Percy Jackson since the characters/ protagonists are All-American kids, but the comparison also stops there. The Dragon’s Tooth is a bit darker. I guess it’s more closely related to the late HP books. Man I confused myself with those last few sentences.

The Dragon’s Tooth is about the Smith family: Dan, Antigone and Cyrus. Two brothers and a sister who live in and operate an abandoned hotel that is more Bates Motel, than Circus Circus. The three come into ownership after their father dies and their mother is placed into a mental institution. The kids have to leave their California home and head to the mid west.  The story doesn’t take very long to get started at all. Within the first few pages the reader is introduced to Billy Bones a guy who can lean on neon light posts that have been broken for years and the sign will come to life. Billy Bones is on the run and the Hotel is his last resort before passing his legacy on to the Smith kids: Antigone and Cyrus. What is his legacy? This is where the book deviates from classical mythology. While Harry Potter delves into the world of wizardry, Percy Jackson captures Greek Mythology and The Red Pyramid focuses on Egyptian lore, this story creates a new opportunity to educate in utilizing a story that I had never heard. The Dragon’s Tooth leans on Irish Catholic ‘history’ and St. Brendan.

Billy Bones after an extemely fast paced firefight with futuristic weapons, has passed on his estate which has to be earned through the Order of Brendan. Instead of going into details about this part of the book, which like HP and Percy takes place on a campus, I will explain that Brendan The Navigator’s story is closely aligned with the book. Once again I won’t leak any of the plot here, but I will say that you should read about St. Brendan prior to reading the book. Then again, maybe reading about it afterwards will give you that ah ha moment in understanding how Ashtown, the campus/city, could possibly exist.

N.D. Wilson has created a narrative that works, but moves a bit too fast. I was never really connected to Cyrus and Antigone; and the big brother Dan is in the book so breifly that he is really an afterthought, an afterthought who has to figure in prominently in the future since he is changed by the antagonist Dr. Phoenix. The book also ends with the theft of an item that could change everything, but the campus settles back in after an attack and Cyrus and Antigone continue moving through their process of becoming Explorers. This can be compared to HP moving through the O.W.L.S process, but this happens far too quickly in Dragon’s Tooth.  Overall, the book is definitely worth the time and could open the door to a more in depth study of creation and science as well as the importance of protecting the environment and even those things that could harm us all.

On my book scale I give The Dragon’s Tooth a 7.5 out of 10 and I highly recommend the book to YAs and Old Folks 🙂

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