Author(s): Laura Bickle
Published by Pronoun on 7/1/2017
Genres: Science Fiction, Fantasy
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This is war,” the dragon said. And she believed him.
Di fled rural West Virginia to study music and pursue a bright future as a violinist. But when a mining accident nearly kills her father, she is summoned back home to support her family. Old ghosts and an old flame emerge from the past. When Di gets a job as a bookkeeper at the same mine where her father worked, she is drawn into a conflict pitting neighbor against neighbor as the mine plans an expansion to an untouched mountain.
If the mining company’s operation goes forward, there will be more at stake than livelihoods or the pollution of the land: Di has discovered a dragon lives deep within Sawtooth Mountain, and he is not happy with this encroachment upon his lair. When catastrophe strikes, Di must choose between her family’s best interests and protecting the dragon – the last surviving bit of magic in Di’s shrinking world.
In every fight, sides are chosen. And there can be no yearning for what has been left behind.
I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
I will start by saying the Dragon’s Playlist is possibly one of the best books I’ve read this year. The characters are well developed and captivating, the story moves at a brisk pace and keeps the engrossed even when the story deals with mundane things and elicited real feelings from me as a reader. And considering I read a lot of books to review and have honestly grown a bit jaded when a novel tries to tug at my heart strings, that’s saying something.
This book blends the real everyday world with a fantasy element, a style that has worked well over the years. If you think too hard about the fantasy elements, it can come a bit undone, but that applies to most of these types of books. And the book is written skillfully enough that it’s easy to ignore the cracks in the premises when they do show up.
While the book has magical elements to the story, including the titular Dragon, it’s really about the going back home and seeing your old life through adult eyes. Seeing the people, you once knew and how they’ve changed, and how relationships change with parents when you are no longer a child.
The mystical elements are fine and weaved in well enough that, not only doesn’t it disrupt the story of homecoming that’s the real treasure of the book, but it adds to it. Afakos, the Dragon, isn’t some otherworldly separate plot but feels like an extension of it. Admittedly, he’s supposed to be the main plot, and the homecoming angle seems to be the B plot, but it’s told with such care and empathy that, for me at least, the two flipped.
While some of the characters are a little two dimensional, you can’t help but become attached to Di. She is a fantastic character, and when she dyes her blue hair brown, I found myself feeling sad for her, as she left part of her independent life behind so she could help her family. She evolves through the book in a masterfully told character arc that kept me glued to the page.
I could continue gushing on all the details of the book, but I’ll leave it with this: The Dragon’s Playlist is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time, and is a must read. It’s not action packed, although there’s action. It’s not a magical ride into fantasy, although there’s plenty of fantasy and magic in it.
It is, however, one of the most honest and captivating tales about the transition from childhood to adulthood I’ve ever read. Get this book and read it. You won’t be sorry.