I was reminded of pony books by reading a couple of books about dragons: Lucinda Hare's Dragonsdome Chronicles, The Dragon Whisperer and Flight to Dragon Isle. The story of Quenelda, illegitimate daughter of Earl Rufus DeWinter of the Stealth Dragon Services and an unknown mother, it combines the best elements of pony stories (the close relationship between child and animal, the power that relationship confers and the feeling of freedom and speed that riding invokes) alongside magic and an epic battle between the Seven Seas Kingdom and the Goblin Hordes. It reminded me strongly of both JRR Tolkein's The Hobbit and Harry Potter, with the themes of a timid outsider (Root Oakley, Quenelda's squire and friend, is a gnome who is terrified of dragons) overcoming his fears and showing heroism, and a slightly arrogant protagonist learning patience and tolerance through a less able friend. There is a terrible betrayal from a character whose arrogance has led him to pursue personal power, corrupting him. The physical hard work of looking after animals and the commitment needed to do so properly is demonstrated through the contrast of Quenelda with her vain and selfish half brother, Darcy, who is nearly killed through his unwillingness to listen to the Dragonmaster. Although the setting is in the fantasy Seven Seas Kingdom, the use of Scottish phrases such as "haar" for a sea fog, and the descriptions of the the Sorcerer's Glen remind me strongly of Kilchurn Castle on Loch Awe.
|Image: Lawrence Warren from bbc.co.uk