As always, this review is spoiler-free.
Wrath of the Dragon King is book 2 of 5 of author Brandon Mull’s Dragonwatch series. The series borrows from and continues the story of told in the Fablehaven books. It follows the story of siblings Kendra and Seth as they attempt to prevent a war with the dragons of the preserve. So what can you expect from this story? Let me touch on a few points:
Familiar Faces—Dragonwatch is definitely meant for fans of the Fablehaven books. Wrath of the Dragon King is no exception to this rule, to the point that without knowledge of the preceding books, the story becomes difficult to follow. That said, Fablehaven fans will love seeing familiar characters and references popping up throughout the story. I recommend a quick refresher of the previous books (for example, the summaries on Wikipedia) to jog your memory before jumping into the story.
Magical Challenges—Brandon Mull is great at “Chamber of Secrets” style challenges. For those who have loved the magical puzzles and challenges of previous Fablehaven books, there are plenty of fun and zany challenges for the characters to overcome, some of them wonderfully paradoxical. While it is obvious that some of the challenges serve mostly as filler scenes in the middle of the book, they are still great fun.
Chess-piece Plot—My main criticism of the story is that it feels a bit rushed and contrived. Instead of allowing characters to naturally make choices that allow the reader room for interpretation, most transition points are swiftly marched through, often with the character telling the reader exactly what they should be feeling and why they are feeling it. This overt lack of subtlety distanced me as a reader from the characters. It felt sometimes like the characters were moving through the plot “whether you want it or not.” For younger readers, this isn’t likely a large issue, but limited character agency may put off older readers.
The Twist—One of Mull’s great strengths is plot twists. Wrath of the Dragon King has some great twisting in it. This book officially kicks off the greater arc of the series. As such, it builds to the end with great momentum that will hopefully continue into book 3. Experienced readers may see the twists coming, but this does not make them any less intriguing or fun to read.
Overall, I give Wrath of the Dragon King a rating of 3 out of 5 stars. I like it (though I will admit that I skipped and skimmed where I could tell that the story was in filler mode.) I struggled more at the beginning than the end to invest in the story. I recommend this book for readers fourth grade on up. Some of the vocabulary may be difficult for young readers, but at its core the story has great themes of heroism and learning to work together.
Have you read Wrath of the Dragon King? What did you think?
Have you read Tell Me When I’m Younger yet? Maybe it’s time. . .