Ember and the Ice Dragons

Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins/. Oct. 2019. 368p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062854513.
Gr 4-7–In this Victorian fantasy, Ember, an orphaned baby dragon, is rescued by magician Lionel St. George and enchanted to look human so she isn’t hunted down like her parents. The jewel-like scales of dragons are an expensive commodity in England and fire dragons like Ember are thought to be extinct. Lionel raises her as his own and all is well until the summer Ember turns 12. The spell that conceals her true identity is wearing thin, and Ember is spontaneously combusting at random moments. To keep safe she decides to visit her Aunt Myra in Antarctica. Ember discovers that Antarctica is not immune to dragon hunters either and now the local ice dragons are near extinction. With two newfound friends, Ember joins the annual Winterglass Hunt in order to covertly sabotage it from the inside. The hunt forces Ember to embrace both sides of her identity and to stop keeping others at a distance. She learns the value of friendship and reconnects with her past in powerful ways. While Ember’s redemptive journey to save others from the fate her parents suffered is the main focus, this well-paced adventure also succeeds as an allegory on wildlife conservation.
VERDICT This highly readable middle grade fantasy adventure wins with its likable heroine and ecological angle.

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