Dragon's Keep, by Janet Lee Carey

Janet Lee Carey's 2008 novel Dragon's Keep is a fantasy novel aimed at mature middle schoolers—kids hungry for “realistic” historical fantasy (read: everyone has fleas, and there is frequent discussion of urine) but way too young for, say, Game of Thrones. Carey's heroine is Princess Rosalind Pendragon, the subject of an ancient prophecy that suggests that she—the 21st queen of Wilde Island—will be the one to restore her family's fortunes and end a war. But before Rosalind can fulfill any prophecies, she needs to deal with a more urgent problem: she was born with a dragon talon on her left hand, and the discovery of her disfigurement is likely to lead to a good old-fashioned witch-burning. Despite countless attempts to cure (or chop off) her claw, Rosalind's finger remains as green and scaly as ever—but when a dragon kidnaps her to serve as a nursemaid for his orphaned children, her “curse” becomes the only thing keeping her alive.

Dragon's Keep doesn't measure up to the ambition of Rachel Hartman's Seraphina or the creativity of Robin McKinley's Dragonhaven, but it's briskly paced and thoughtfully characterized. Carey's nods to 12th-century politics—Rosalind's father goes to war alongside Empress Matilda, and her parents hope to marry her off to England's King Henry II—lends her novel some historically-enriched dignity. As an adult who has enjoyed more than her fair share of fantasy novels, I still found Dragon's Keep rather generic, but I'm confident younger (and less judgmental) readers will soak up Carey's take on dragons and princesses and handsome knights like a sponge—fleas, urine, witch-burnings, and all.

Review based on a publisher-provided copy.
Posted by: Julianka


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