FICTION

Anya and the Dragon

HMH/Versify. Sept. 2019. 400p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780358006077.
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Gr 4-7–Would you help kill what might be the last dragon in the world if it saved your family from being evicted? In a 10th-century Eastern Europe where magical creatures abound but human magic is all but illegal, 13-year-old Anya has just found out that she and her family are about to lose their home, and with her father recently conscripted into the Tsar’s army, there doesn’t seem to be any way out. The discrimination that Anya and her family experience for being Jewish makes things even worse. When a boy named Ivan, the youngest in a rambunctious gang of brothers (all named Ivan), introduces Anya to his father, she realizes she may have a way to earn money—by helping him find an elusive dragon. And then she meets the dragon himself, who turns out to be a sweet and friendly creature—basically the draconic version of Ivan, and connected in some mysterious way to the village blacksmith, Kin. Anya and Ivan struggle to save the dragon from three enemies, the worst of which is the cold-hearted and ambitious Viking Sigurd, with help from a variety of unlikely and unusual sources. Anya is smart and feisty, with more talent and courage than she realizes. She must keep secrets and decide for herself if it is ever right to kill. There is a fair amount of violence and depictions of anti-Semitism, but the story also has humor, a quick pace, and a keen sense of place.
VERDICT A strong heroine and an unusual setting make this worth adding to most crowded fantasy shelves.

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