Monday, November 16, 2015

Review: The Dragon, the Thief, & the Princess by Gillian Bradshaw

Award-winning novelist Gillian Bradshaw's classic fantasy-history tale of Egypt and Nubia, now in one volume. Teen fisherman Prahotep is nicknamed "bad-luck" because everything he touches turns to disaster. When his father dies, he sets off to Thebes to improve his fate, but soon winds up on a dangerous work crew, cutting stone for an evil magician. There he befriends a dying tomb-robber who tells him of unimaginable riches - and how to find them. Prahotep escapes the work crew but instead of finding the riches, he finds Lady Hathor, a proud, irritable dragon. Meanwhile, to the south, in Nubia, the princess Kandaki's family is murdered by an usurper. Kandaki refuses the usurper's offer of marriage, and is sent north to be offered as a sacrifice to a "swamp dragon".

I received this ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 3.5 Stars

This book started out a bit rough for me. I did not think I was going to like it because the way the opening chapters are written made me think it would have been more suited to a prose-y picture book than a 300 page novel. I could see myself reading this aloud to my son and it would have been fine. The Egyptian culture was evident and some aspects of it explained in simple and straightforward way (i.e. why Prahotep had to stay home for 70 days after his father died - embalming takes time).

As I read further in, though, things started to look up. I think the turning point was when Prahotep met Lady Hathor for the first time. I had never thought of dragons as something that related to Egypt in anyway. They seemed a more European story aspect. I liked the inclusion. It was unexpected and done well. I felt quite sad for Hathor here due to her situation (won't say more for fear of spoilers).

One thing that was a bit odd was that unless I had been told in the text that Prahotep was seventeen, I would have guessed twelve or thirteen. He comes across as a much  younger person, similar to Percy Jackson in the Olympians series.

Prahotep, for all his bad luck, does end up with some good luck along the way. If he had not failed so spectacularly at learning a trade, he would never have met Hathor or Baki. I thought that reading about all the different ways that his bad luck cropped up (the different trades failing, the magician and Kenna finding them on the river, etc.) would become tired, but the writing kept it fresh enough that I was not rolling my eyes every time something new cropped up.

Overall, I'd say that there were a few moments when the plot dragged and the beginning read more like a fleshed out picture book, but I could see sharing this with a middle grader to read on their own or reading it aloud to a slightly younger child.

Music Recommendation

I liked the thought of the journey that Prahotep begins when he comes to Thebes that ends up leading him to Hathor and their adventure. On a whole I would recommend the soundtrack for The Hobbit - The Desolation of Smaug for listening while reading this book. There are a few tracks that since up perfectly with moments in the book, for example:


When Prahotep stumbles upon Hathor's cave, the feeling of wonder and a little fear is summed up wonderfully within this score.

My Armor is Iron

This song would work for anger or sandess, whichever  feeling was most in Hathor's heart. When you are first introduced to her and her history, there is such a depth of emotion that could go either way. Picture a reaction of anger or one of tremendous fear when reading her talking about her parents and grandparents and listening to this song. It came to my mind so well, I thought I'd better share it.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

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