Sunday, January 6, 2008

Dragonhaven by Robin McKinley

by Robin McKinley

I've mentioned it before, but I'm a huge fan of McKinley. She always tells a story with—what? honesty? Is that it? Yeah, a bare-to-the-bone honesty, and I think any writer who is a GREAT writer has to do that—and, boy, did I mention I like her stuff? (I really ought to do a compound review of her stuff when I feel like a re-reading spurt—I really want to tackle things like Sunshine and Deerskin again—whereas The Hero and the Crown is one of my all-time favorite books and I've re-read that one countless times.)

This one, Dragonhaven, came out not too long ago (September?) and it took me this long to get my hands on a copy.

If you like dragons (and I grew up reading Dickinson's A Flight of Dragons, which is a flippin' reference book on dragons with great illustrations and the like—and when I was wee, I remember watching the cheesy cartoon movie of the same title on television, and I sooooo loved it—I wanted to live in that movie because I was five and didn't notice it was cheesy at the time), this is a great read. It's a great read anyway, but if you always wished dragons were real, it won't hurt.

McKinley is as honest with her portrayal of her characters as always, and the lead in this book, Jake, is brutally honest, a compulsive worrier, and—since it is written in first person—sometimes pretty annoying! But I loved the guy anyway, enjoyed the story greatly, etc., etc.

Since McKinley is married to Dickinson nowadays, and since I had Dickinson's book memorized, it was fun to see the influence he'd had on her, and the different turns she took with it, and some of the stuff she came up with that was different from some of the stuff he came up with...but I doubt anyone else would care about that, the theme of How One of My Favorite Authors Influenced Another of My Favorite Authors by Marrying One Another and Doubtlessly Talking of Book Ideas to Each Other. Yeah, only I'm freak enough for that.

The best thing about this particular book (for me, I mean) was the way it accurately captured the feeling of being a mom—especially the claustrophobia, worry, and exhaustion that goes along with it—helped me feel a little more human. (McKinley always does. Thanks, Robin.) I have to get a quote...let's see...*rummaging for several minutes through said book, occasionally getting distracted by re-reading some good passages, until finally, 40 minutes later*...Ah! Here:
"giving up your life to keep someone else alive is kind of hard"
Well, okay, it doesn't seem like much, but the first time I read it the truth of it resonated in me like I was a bell that had just been struck. Kind of a big "duh" moment for wynne. I love it when authors can do that for me. The thing is, the narrator of the story, Jake, had a baby dragon imprint on him, and he became its mother, without having an idea of how to take care of it. And he was like any mom with a newborn: constant feedings, constant care, and like he said, he had to give up his life as he knew it, and he was just a 14-year-old kid.

Here are two more examples of the kind of stuff that she was writing that resonated with me:
"Proud Mom. Obsessed Mom. Silly with relief for even a few feet and a few minutes of semi-freedom Mom."
"But those first few months, the stronger the panicky sense of being trapped by this little live thing that was utterly dependent on me and only me got, the stronger the dreams got..."
(dreams that comforted him, thankfully)

I don't think I made my point very well, but, really, that was the best part of the book for me. But that's only because I have weird personal problems and really bad postpartum depression with my first, only (and very likely, last) child, right? Does everyone feel that way? Jake did, and that helped me. Yeah, I'm so not getting the point across. Oh well—on to the next book!

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