LocalLit guide evaluation: ‘The Daraga’s Youngsters’ by Colleen H. Robbins of Joliet
When I met Joliet writer Colleen H. Robbins about a decade ago, she was working on a fantasy trilogy for young adults.
What made this trilogy a little different from many fantasy books written for teenagers was the way Robbins transformed today’s struggles into a book set in magical eras and locations.
Robbins didn’t just put a challenge on the pages to make their stories relevant. They are relevant because the problems are not counted as tokens or made up. They pierce the pages and children will recognize them.
The first book is “Daraga’s Quest”. The second is “The Daraga’s Children”. It is this second book that I am reading right now.
Here is the full description of the Amazon book: “Family is everything, right? Then why do they have so many secrets? When sixteen-year-old Nicholas Nayevson discovers that he can transform himself into a dragon, he can’t wait to meet his wizard father demonstrate .
“If his father does not return from the distant Daraga lands, a nobleman tries to force his sister into marriage and Nicholas’ people fight dragon attacks. Nicholas realizes he must take action.
“Hoping to solve both problems and avert an all-out war with the dragons, he decides to track down his father. Traveling as a dragon is difficult, but traveling as a human has its own challenges. Worse, Nicholas has no idea. where he is father’s mysterious Daraga people live.
“But what can Nicholas do when he discovers that the young man at the other end of his sword is his almost identical brother – from his father’s other family?”
Here are some of the ways The Daraga’s Children are engaging young adults in the 21st century.
Nicholas, for example, misses the time he spent with his father Nayev, a dragon, especially since Nayev secretly taught him magic. Most of the time, Nayev lives with the great golden dragons and he has only visited Nicholas twice since Nicholas turned nine.
Many children today live in single parent homes and miss the rare visits of the other parent.
Nicholas is also embarrassed by the very public and exuberant affection his mother Timbrel Lady Urramach, ambassador of the Ravali elves (who is more like a sister than a mother), shows for Nayev when he comes out of the woods every now and then.
“Why do I have the most embarrassing parents in the world?” Nicholas is surprised.
He gets into an argument about her behavior and protests and grumbles like a typical brother when his sister Triana uses her healing powers to stop the bleeding and realign his nose.
Triana is most similar to him and uses magic. His sister Raisa doesn’t, which causes her to withdraw a little from them. Even so, Nicholas’ self-esteem suffers from her abilities.
His sisters (the trio are triplets) surpass him in many ways. Sure he can do magic too, but only if he turns stones into dust. Which child would like to be “defeated” by their siblings?
The triplets are also bilingual: they can speak kite growls. They can also read minds, although (with the exception of Raisa) their skills are limited to the minds of family members.
Here are some of my random thoughts so far:
The writing is tight and the pace is brisk but not breakneck. The scenes jump around a bit from the present to flashbacks, but sub-headings alert the reader when this occurs.
Imagination isn’t my typical genre (JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, and L. Frank Baum are exceptions, and I have to be the only person in the world who stopped reading Harry Potter after the first book).
Despite the fantastic elements (pointy elf ears and the like), kids will relate to the modern-sounding language patterns, familiar routines (“fire practice was conducted for the day”), and relationships between the main characters and their siblings, parents) and their peers.
Robbins is currently writing the third book in the trilogy.
Buy “Daraga’s Quest” and “The Daraga’s Children” on Amazon.
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