Dragon's Tooth (Ashtown Burials, Book 1)
By N.D. Wilson
Expected publication August 23, 2011 by Random House Children's Books
I had heard of Wilson prior to ALA, intrigued by an earlier series (100 Cupboards), but never read him. This is the first book in a new series, scheduled to release in August. Cyrus Smith is an ordinary 12-year-old, though he's living in some unusual circumstances. After his father's death and his mother's coma, Cyrus lives with his older brother and sister in a motel once owned by their parents. But then, a strange man with his skeleton tattooed on the outside of his body shows up and Cyrus is plunged into a mysterious and confusing world. He must battle alongside his sister, Antigone, to save his brother and mother from a very evil man and his "children."
Okay, this is how to start a series. I actually care about what happens next. Wilson has crafted a book that could tap into the huge post-Harry Potter audience. An incredibly interesting and complicated ancient secret history, a villain to rival Voldemort, magic, and a breakneck pace - all these things add up to create an impossible to put down read. I really enjoyed reading this. The level of detail and imagination used to create this world is pretty impressive. Dr. Phoenix is a very believable and scary bad guy. Plus, this book has the heft of Harry Potter - comes in just shy of 500 pages. However, there are a few things that make me wonder if this could really inherit the mantle of the boy who lived. First, Cyrus is not as compelling of a hero as Harry. I can't quite put my finger on what it is about him, but I just didn't get totally behind him. There is something just slightly off-putting about him. And my other big issue with the book is that I still don't really know what's going on. Nothing is explained, even partially, until over 250 pages in - which is quite a long time to wait for some understanding. And even then, the explanation of the Order and how it functions is haphazard and incomplete. I'm left at the end of this book with a feeling of confusion. I don't need to know everything, but I don't feel like I know enough.
Regardless, this is a very strong first entry in a series and a compelling fantasy that I think will appeal to a great number of kids. Thanks to the publisher for an advanced reader's copy.