272p. HarperCollins/Harper. Jun. 2019. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062665553.
Gr 3–6—A classic middle grade quest story. Rafi's bright orange hair, dark eyes, and imperviousness to heat and cold set him apart from the other children in his hillside village, and he's strangely fascinated with Dragonfell, the nearby lair of a long-gone dragon. When scheming strangers threaten his community unless the townspeople turn him over, the boy leaves to draw the evildoers away. Determined to find the truth about the mysterious beasts and about himself, he joins self-proclaimed "dragon scientist" Maud on a search for answers. Along the way the travelers discover, and decide to foil, the schemers' plot to slaughter dragons. Written for a younger audience than Prineas' "Magic Thief" series, this novel features strong male and female main characters, villains with a bit of depth, a spectrum of interesting magical creatures, and an ever increasing herd of goats. Rafi's first-person present-tense narration dishes out plenty of action as the children run from wicked humans, dragons, and vaporwagons. There's a great big twist at the end that more sophisticated readers will enjoy figuring out long before the characters do. It's all great fun with a well-integrated message about being stuck in a confining shape until you can be who you truly are.
VERDICT Dragon books are always popular; this one in particular is the perfect choice for graduates of Tracey West's "Dragon Masters" books.

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