Monday, February 14, 2011

Book Review: Dragon's Keep by Janet Lee Carey

Forget Me Not is a meme created by Steph from The Thoughts of a Book Junky where slightly older but still great books are shared. This Tuesday, I am going to feature an older book that enjoyed.

Dragon's Keep by Janet Lee Carey
Release Date: February 22, 2011
Atheneum/Simon & Schuster
Pages: 320
Received: Library
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars 

Goodreads Page


Goodreads description: 

Far away on Wilde Island, Princess Rosalind is born with a dragon claw where her ring finger should be. To hide the secret, the Queen forces her to wear gloves at all times until a cure can be found, so Rosalind can fulfill the prophecy to restore the family to their rightful throne. But Rosalind’s flaw cannot be separated from her fate. 

When she is carried off by the dragon, everything she thought she knew falls apart. The dragon sees beauty in her talon where her mother saw only shame, and Rosalind finally understands what her mother has truly denied her. Carey has written a stunning portrayal of the complex relationship between a mother and daughter in a lyrical novel sure to thrill readers who love fantasy—and those who don’t.


This is one of those books where the payoff is good, but the journey is only so-so. I’m glad I read this book—I like the story very much and the author did a great job in capturing the feel of an Arthurian tragedy—but…the actual reading process was a little difficult for me.

I like fast-paced books, and this was not a fast-paced book at all. There is very little edge-of-your-seat action, with the plot instead unfurling slowly across Rosalind's life. For people who don’t mind a slower-paced book, this will probably be appealing because the writing is very nice.

For me, I enjoyed what I was reading (even though I didn’t always like Rosalind), but I was a little frustrated that things weren’t happening as quickly as I would have liked. To put things in perspective, Rosalind doesn’t get taken by the dragon until about halfway through the book. I’m always a little annoyed when you have to read a significant portion of the book just to get through the jacket blurb.

With the mention of Merlin and the fact that Rosalind is a descendant of the Pendragon line (King Arthur’s family), I had expected this to be an Arthurian tale. That really isn’t what we get here though. Outside of the prophecy’s connection to Merlin, no one else from the legend appears. I felt this was unnecessarily reaching—an original wizard could have made the prophecy just as easily as Merlin and the family connection did not need to be Pendragon. The resolution of the prophecy was also pretty obvious early on.

Then there’s the romance. I always like a little romance in my books, but I also don’t want it to be the focal point of the story. That is the case here, but, well, it’s a little too absent. I felt like it was supposed to be this deep love, but Rosalind only met with him a few times. To me, that made her come across more like a girl with a little crush than some epic love. His presence felt contrived and overly convenient. His personality also wasn’t very consistent. Romance fan that I am, I actually still would have preferred if this character had been left out completely.

I liked and loathed the dragons in the book. Janet Lee Carey made her dragons different from any other fictional dragon I’ve encountered. They are clearly a species different from humans. They’re horribly cruel, but I enjoyed reading about them nonetheless.

Dragon's Keep is a well-written story with evocative characters that, while not entirely likable, lingered in my mind long after I finished the book. Unlike the love interest, all of the other characters were clearly and strongly drawn. This book is saturated with sadness, suffering, and internally conflicted characters. They are desperate, confused, twisted, obsessive, craven, and suffer repeated losses. In this regard, Janet Lee Carey did a phenomenal job in capturing the essence and feel of an Arthurian tale. I even cried at one point.

While oftentimes predictable, the book is written beautifully and the story is strong enough to compensate for the drawbacks. Months after having read this book, I still find myself thinking about it. My lower rating mostly comes from the fact that I tend to prefer faster and less dreary books. I do recommend Dragon’s Keep, particularly to those who enjoy Arthurian tragedies or are looking for a beautifully written dragon book that is different from the norm. 

 Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key  

Looking for another book about twisted mother/daughter relationships?
You might like: 
The Twin's Daughter, by Lauren Baratz-Logsted 


  1. Sounds like an interesting read. I don't mind slow books but the fact that Rosalind gets taken by the dragon after having to read half of the book makes me a little hesitant. I think I'll take a look at it though maybe during the summer when I have more time.

  2. You would really suck to be born with a dragon claw for a finger. Talk about freak of nature :-)
    I like that the dragons in this book are different than they are in other books. I like when authors have the courage to veer away from traditional notions of supernatural creatures and create their own mythology. Like Twilight - so many people rag on Stephenie for deviating from widely held vampire canon, but seriously...they're not real (at least I hope not). You can do whatever you want with them.

  3. A Canadian Girl, It was disappointing that it took so long for her to get to the dragon, but the first half is still fascinating. You learn about the relationship between the MC and her mother. It's very interesting and disturbing, but also is a great comparison to the MC's later relationship with the dragons.

    Alison, LOL! Yes, it definitely would suck. I liked that about the dragons too. The author really did a great job in making them a completely separate species and culture. I don't always like it when an author takes too many liberties with the "traditional" mythology, but some authors just do such a great job that I don't care how different their creature is from tradition. You're right, there are no absolutes.

  4. I don't think Dragon's Keep is for me. While I like The Arthurian Legend, I wasn't aware there were other books told in that style. Regardless, I don't like sad. I leave that for others. Thanks for doing such a thorough review!


  5. Heather, You're welcome :) If you don't like sad, then this book probably isn't for you. It is SAD. It's like one tragedy for the main character after another, but there is a happy ending!

  6. I do love Arthurian tales! Even though you say this is only sort of an Arthurian tale, I think I might be really into this book. Especially because I think I have a pretty high tolerance for slow pacing in books.

  7. I love Arthurian tales so much! I would love some suggestions if you ever have the time :)

    I think you might like the book then. But don't read it if you're sad! I was surprised at how much this book has stayed with me.

  8. I lOved this book! I'm finishing the book report for it now!!! I kno I'll Getta 100


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