Dragon’s Bait by Vivian Vande Velde
For sixteen-year-old Alys, witches, dragons, and lost souls are things far away from the small town she grew up in. Saint Toby’s was always her home and the people within it, while some more questionable than others, were all she had ever known. That is, until the day she was wrongfully accused of being a witch and offered up as a sacrifice to a dragon.
Ultimately betrayed and condemned to die by those she once called friends, reeling from the loss of her only remaining family, and with nowhere else to go, Alys gives up. Coming face-to-face with the source of her impending demise, however, doesn’t work out exactly as she expected.
Instead, Alys finds a most dangerous ally and sets out on a journey to exact her revenge. Charmingly frustrating, shape-shifting dragons are the least of her problems, though, as Alys slowly realizes that vengeance isn’t everything she thought it would be. In fact, her single-minded determination to destroy the lives of those who ruined hers may very well cause Alys to lose the one thing she has left.
Dragon’s Bait is a delightful little story about loss, revenge, and love. While the book doesn’t overpower the reader with any one of these elements in particular, it eludes to each lightly at varying states. This functions as both a benefit and a limitation. While the book is enjoyable, easy to read, and short, it does lack a certain level of depth.
Alys is presented as a somewhat one-dimensional character and her actions are usually predictable. Her role is unique, however, as she spends the majority of the book seeking vengeance and plotting bad things against those who wronged her. This deviates from many other young adult fiction protagonists who run from issues until the climax of the book when he/she can no longer avoid them. Instead of waiting for action to find her, Alys propels the story forward, her choices setting the foundation for what happens next at every turn.
Her accomplice, the dashing “young” dragon, Selendrile, provides the reader with more intrigue, as details about his life and existence are explored only to the extent that Alys discovers them, which isn’t much. His character remains a curiosity, but his existence pulls at the heart-strings. While the faint presence of potential romance between the two is endearing and sweet, it is arguably too subtle – the readers almost have to be looking for it.
Vivian Vande Velde’s writing style is simple, but she delivers a solid story that definitely meets the needs of her targeted upper-elementary to middle school age group. Versed fantasy readers will likely find this quick read pleasant, but may not be completely satisfied when it comes to the details. Overall, however, Dragon’s Bait is enjoyable, serves as a wonderful introduction to young adult literature, and is very well-suited for younger audiences.
- Plot: 4/5
- Setting: 3/5
- Characters: 3.75/5
- Creativity: 4/5
- Writing: 4/5
- Overall: 3.75/5