Ember and the Ice Dragons by Heather Fawcett
Middle Grade | Fantasy
Published by Balzer + Bray
Released 11 August 2020
Goodreads | Amazon
I will read any book with dragons in it. It doesn’t matter what age group it’s for or what popular opinion on the book might be – if there’s a dragon, I want to read it.
While looking through lists of new releases back at the end of July, I came across a synopsis for Heather Fawcett’s Ember and the Ice Dragon. It sounded too cute to pass up.
Our main character, Ember St. George, is a dragon-turned human and goes on an adventure to Antarctica to stay with her aunt. Once there, she discovers that a group of aristocrats partake of an annual hunt of the region’s ice dragons.
Horrified, Ember, along with two of her new friends, join the hunt. Their plan is to sabotage it from within and save the ice dragons. Neither of her new friends are aware that Ember is a dragon as well, however; it’s her deepest secret and she struggles to hide it from everyone.
The entire story was super cute and fun to read. It definitely reads like a middle-grade novel (which is appropriate, since it’s the book’s targeted audience), but the reader isn’t talked down to like I’ve seen in other middle-grade books. At times there are a few difficult topics that are addressed, such as the death of Ember’s parents, but are handled very well and in a way that is age-appropriate.
I really enjoyed Ember’s journey of self-discovery and learning that it’s okay to be herself. She’s had to keep her true self from the world for so long that she’s terrified of how she would be treated if anyone were to find out that she’s a dragon. However, she doesn’t count on how powerful the unconditional bond of friendship can be. Ember has lived most of her life solo, not allowing herself to make friends, but she learns how much happier she can be with friends by her side.
Along with friendship, family also plays an incredibly important role in this book. Ember’s father adopts her when she is very young and in need, and their bond is powerful. (This isn’t a spoiler, by the way; it happens in the very first few pages of the book.)
The book’s antagonist, Prince Gideon, certainly comes across as “the bad guy,” but I really appreciated the depth of his character. In the novels I read in middle grade, there usually wasn’t that much depth to the books; one character was good, one was evil, the good one won, and so on. I don’t read many middle-grade books these days, but I hope good character development like this is the new trend.
I listened to the audiobook of Ember and the Ice Dragons, and I would definitely recommend the format.
If you’re looking for a slightly unusual take on classic fantasy tropes, along with dragons and magic, give Ember and the Ice Dragons a chance. It would have been a favorite had it been around when I was in middle school, especially the parts with the quirky penguins!
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