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Dragon's Bait (2003)

Dragon's Bait (2003)

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3.93 of 5 Votes: 1
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0152166637 (ISBN13: 9780152166632)
hmh books for young readers

About book Dragon's Bait (2003)

Oh book, why you make me so torn?I first heard about Dragon’s Bait through this piece on Entertainment Weekly about unmissable teen reads. And because it was an older title and because the Publishers Weekly review (which I sought after I read the EW article) said it is a “thoughtful mainstream fantasy with a gently feminist slant”, I decided I needed to read it soon.Basically, the story follows a young girl, fifteen-year-old Alys, as she is accused of being a witch by her neighbours and summarily convicted in an unfair trial by the visiting Inquisitor. She loses everything and worst of all, Alys’ sick father dies in front of her eyes as she is dragged away to be sacrificed to the local dragon.Alys thinks she is all but dead when, to her surprise, the dragon – who shape-shifts into a hot young man (obviously) called Selendrile– does not kill her. Instead, he listens to her story and offers to help her to avenge herself.And you know, I can totally see where both EW and PW are coming from but at the same time…no, not really?On the one hand we have a quick story with a fairytale vibe. Plus, Alys is a great heroine. Her voice is engaging, ironic and questioning. Her father has been teaching her to work on his workshop against the mores of their time where women don’t actually work at all and she loves the feeling of being useful.Then when she is taken to be sacrificed to the dragon, she wonders why is it that only maidens are always the ones to be sacrificed? And the dragon-boy brings to her attention that dragons don’t actually make those demands at all as they couldn’t care less who they eat. Those choices are made by the men who rule the towns and who perceive maidens (young unmarried girls with no profession) as worthless. This could actually be taken as really cool meta-textual observation about the way we have chosen to write these stories about dragons and maidens over time.On the other hand, there is very little character development when it comes to the secondary characters, very little thought about character-motivation and a confusing world-building that is both historical and fantastical but doesn’t really care about pesky historical details or in presenting a carefully constructed fantasy world.Not to mention that there is a fairly heavy-handed, shallow moral lesson about revenge and how bad it is. And if yes, Alys’ arc is interesting in the way that allows Alys to take control of her own acts by becoming less and less reliant on the dragon’s help and coming up with her own plans, it is also incredibly frustrating how it plays out. Because in the end, Alys is still rescued by dragon-boy after deciding that her feelings of revenge are so bad she decides that the right course of action is to take the blame for EVERYTHING bad that has EVER happened in the village and I am like: WHY. It is such an out-of-character thing to do, all the more so because after she is rescued, those guilty feelings are never addressed again?And then we have the romance between Alys and Selendrile. And at first it is great to see addressed the inevitable allure of the not-so-human, dark, older hot guy at the same time that showed Alys mistrusting him and fearing him for the monster that he is. And for the greatest part of the novel – till the very end – Alys is very unsure about his true feelings and fears he will EAT/KILL HER eventually. But then they end up together anyway in the most abrupt ending of ALL TIMES in which Alys ends up FOLLOWING him because she has NO OTHER CHOICE, even though he possibly EATS PEOPLE and doesn’t really show his emotions toward her except when it comes to mocking her humanity. He is very good at THAT.And I am like: WHAT JUST HAPPENED?And in a way, this is a really interesting choice and it points out to a darkness and to the fact that Alys wants to be with this creature but because it is so abrupt, this choice goes unquestioned and unchallenged for its clearly problematic aspects.Because this was published 20 years ago, maybe it is worth reading Dragon’s Bait as a historical piece of YA fiction to see how far YA has come in terms of writing and character development but also how little it has changed in terms of its most obvious problematic romantic tropes?Yeah, I will go with that.

There is a big difference between -tA romance written in a fantasy setting; and-tA fantasy novel with romance in it. Most authors do not write a well-balanced story with both elements – to use a famous example, Harry Potter is heavy on the fantasy and very light on the romance. (Unless, of course, if you’re reading fanfiction.)Dragon’s Bait is neither. It is a story of a girl and a dragon, and as a fantasy novel it is a total fail, because the world-building was not well thought out at all. -tYou get a vaguely Middle Age setting, during the time of wide-scale witch hunts. Because for some reason the best way to introduce your main characters to each other was to sacrifice the damsel in distress to the dragon. -tYou get a total of ONE dragon, who is a special snowflake of a character. He has special shape-shifting powers."Can all dragons change to human shape?" He paused, as though considering how much to tell her. "No," he said, "Only gold-colored dragons have magic."Which is just strange. You could’ve said that -tDragons have been blending in amongst humans, pretending to be the same-tdragons could turn into human and have been keeping this ability a secret. Use your imagination. I could think of at least 5 reasons why.Instead, no, only Selendrile has the ability because he is blonde. Great.And also, you get inexplicable dragon biology.I have to be a dragon come dawn or I'll die." "Why?" "Why?" He sighed, sounding more tired than exasperated. "Why can't you soar on the wind? Why can't you breathe underwater? Why can't you she'd your skin and turn into a butterfly?" She didn't understand.Because Alys is a foolish girl, and Selendrile is one irritating bastard who is always undressing himself in front of her for laughs.By the light of the torches she saw that his hair was the color the mane had been, palest gold, and it hung almost to his waist. Alys jerked her gaze back up to the face, for she had suddenly—finally—noticed that he wore no clothes. For the first time, the purple eyes flickered with emotion: amusement.He is always finding amusement at Alys’s expense. And if she was as feisty as the author would’ve liked us to believe, he would not have gotten away with this behaviour half so many times."She was flirting with you," Alys explained, lest he think she was laughing at him. "She liked you."For some reason Alys thinks that a dragon who is-tover 300 years old-tcould shapeshift into human form at whimdoes not understand the concept of lust/romantic attraction. Right.The one good thing I could say about the romance it that it is not instalove. The love is implied rather than expressed. But I do not like the characters and I don’t see their attraction to each other being anything deeper than a superficial level."Of course I saw you. I wasn't interested until you began to act out of the ordinary."Speaking of which, “acting out of ordinary” in this case consisted of Alys throwing rocks at a flying dragon when she was supposedly tied to a stake. Apparently the villagers forgot to tie her hands.

Do You like book Dragon's Bait (2003)?

To this day, Dragon's Bait is one of my absolute favorite books. I don't even know how many times I've read it, delighted by it each time. Basically a young girl, Alys, is accused of being a witch and as her punishment, she is "sacrificed" to the dragon. The dragon, Selendrile, has no interest in eating her; he's actually amused by her overwhelming desire for revenge. He then agrees to help her plan out her revenge on the town that falsely declared her to be a witch. While reading Dragon's Bait, I was able to connect with Alys beautifully. I could feel her anger and her pain, almost as if I was in the story myself. I would encourage any fantasy loving child, teenager or adult to pick up this book.
—Katelyn Harper

Reading this felt like I was watching a Disney movie. And I definitely don't mean that in a bad way. This was a short read, but it didn't change the fact that this was wonderful.I liked the fact that this book explores the question, "Is it wrong to yearn for revenge?" "Will you truly be satisfied when you have done the deed?"Also, you can actually see that the girl changes for the better at the end of the book. Which is always a whooping plus point for me. :)There is absolutely no insta-love here. Heck, there's barely any romance here but I don't think I currrr because the story, even without that wonderful plus of an ending (view spoiler)[ The dragon invites the girl to live with him. (hide spoiler)]

Alys is an independent girl running her father's shop during his illness, when she is accused of being a witch by her neighbors, who really just want her shop. She is tied up outside the village and left for the dragon that has been rampaging to eat.But when he arrives, instead of eating Alys, he offers her a chance to take revenge on her enemies. Should Alys take the dragon up on his offer? Wouldn't it be ironic if she ended up committing the crimes she has already been found guilty of doing?Clever, funny, and with a surprise twist at the end, I found this to be a very satisfying read.
—Jackie "the Librarian"

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