On one side of the border lies the modern world: the internet, homecoming dances, cell phones. On the other side dwell the ancient monsters who spark humanity's deepest fears: dragons. Seventeen-year-old Kay Wyatt knows she's breaking the law by rock climbing near the border, but she'd rather have an adventure than follow the rules. When the dragon Artegal unexpectedly saves her life, the rules are abruptly shattered, and a secret friendship grows between them. But suspicion and terror are the legacy of human and dragon inter-actions, and the fragile truce that has maintained peace between the species is unraveling. As tensions mount and battles begin, Kay and Artegal are caught in the middle. Can their friendship change the course of a war? (Publisher's summary from Powell's Books)
Author Carrie Vaughn and I share something in common; we both have a fascination with dragons. In Voices of Dragons Vaughn, however, takes her imagination and creates a world where dragons coexist with humans, and the result is a delightful, modern day fantasy.
First, I was genuinely impressed with the premise for this fantasy primarily because of the setting. The small town in Montana where the story takes place borders Dragon, a territory given to dragons after they awoke some 60 years ago from the nuclear blasts at the end of WW II. Vaughn’s did an excellent job at providing details that allowed me to accept the setting as real. She gave information about the Dragon Treaty that discussed the terms of how the dragons and humans would peacefully coexist. This treaty included a Federal Bureau of Border Enforcement, whose job was to keep people out of Dragon. In return for being left alone, the dragons agreed to leave human kind alone. Another example of specific details that helped make the setting to come alive were the dragon-raid drills run at the schools along with fire and tornado drills. Finally, Vaughn’s combination of historical information and dragon myth strongly established a realistic world that I not only enjoyed reading about, but would love to live.
Vaughn’s characterization although to a lesser degree, also allowed the suspension of disbelief in the story. From the beginning, Kay the protagonist is portrayed as a risk taker. She rock climbs alone, and chooses to do so right on the border, despite the fact that both her parents’ jobs are concerned with protecting the border. While the events that lead to Kay meeting Artegal, a dragon, might be seen as somewhat contrived, Vaughn’s consistency in both characters’ actions and dialogue, were more than enough to allow me to accept her reality. Through these two characters, Vaughn gives us a lot of information about the history of dragons. I really did like Artegal, who could speak and read and his desired to practice his speech with Kay gave her a reason to meet him again. As their friendship develops, Kay’s natural risk taking leads them to experiment with flying, which is certainly one of the things I would want to do if I had a friend who was a dragon. While I did not feel that Kay’s character was as dynamic as she could have been, this did not stop me from enjoying the story.
Finally, I liked how Vaughn was able to build some universal themes into the story. Certainly the most obvious one is the power of friendship, which is easily identified through Kay’s and Artegal’s interactions. However, in addition to this Vaughn incorporates ideas about discrimination and prejudices as seen by man’s misunderstanding and fear of the dragons, society’s use of military might over diplomacy to settle problems, and individual sacrifices for the greater good. The ending while hopeful in some ways also left me sad that society’s fears always seem to win out over reason.
Although Vaughn is an experienced writer of adult fiction, Voices of Dragons is her debut into YA fiction. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I look forward to reading more YA books from Vaughn in the near future.