Going Down in Flames: Harry Potter for Dragons

Going Down in FlamesGoing Down in Flames by Chris Cannon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My Summary:
Just before her sixteenth birthday, Bryn finds out that she is a mixed breed dragon, and will be required to attend dragon school. It also turns out that the most powerful man in the Directorate (the dragon governing body) is the man Bryn’s mother ran away from to marry Bryn’s father. Against her will, Bryn goes away to dragon school, where she is thought to be a genetic impossibility at best, an abomination (to be destroyed) at worst. There she must learn the rules of dragon society, and who she can trust.

The dragons seem to exist alongside humans (though that’s not always their preference), but have a society all their own. The bulk of this story takes place in a setting reminiscent of Harry Potter, with a faraway school and a nearby small shopping town that is aware of the dragon community.

My Thoughts:
I really enjoyed the interactions between characters in this story, but to a large degree those interactions revolve around food, so prepare to be hungry! The main character eats a ridiculous amount, and though that is explained away as dragon metabolism (and possibly power and ability expenditure), she far out-eats every other dragon – so much so that eating becomes a part of her character. So you if you don’t like salivating over food, this might not be the story for you. But Bryn’s love of food does play into at least one major plot development, so it’s not without its reasons.

I was a little surprised that so much of this story revolved around everyday school life. It was handled well, even down to the subjects taught in class. But because of the school setting, there was almost no contact with the outside world; Bryn’s parents and friend Beth never showed up again after the beginning of the story. This is understandable, given the situation. However, I was waiting to see how Bryn would balance the tension between the outside world and the dragon world, and the idea of coexisting in between. I felt like this never happened.

Bryn immediately takes a moral stance against arranged marriages and the affairs they produce in dragon society. On the other hand, she is easily swayed by her crush’s assurance that he will find a way to break off his unwanted engagement. And Bryn has no problem accepting gifts from the would-be benefactor she turned down. That shakes a bit of my faith in Bryn as a reasonable character. But maybe this is just her optimism showing through?

Overall, the book was very well written, with a nice twist toward the end. I felt like the loose ends were neatly wrapped up in the ending, while still leaving room for the story to continue into another book. The characters are likable, and the bullies are enough to make the reader nervous. The ideas of benefactors, mistresses, and mates after graduation definitely appeal to an older teen audience (or people in their twenties), and did not make me feel like I was reading a Teen book. But those things are only explored as ideas, and no romance in the book is beyond a couple brief kisses. And those hints at more adult concepts are strongly offset by the strict high school setting.

I do wish there were a few more “curve balls” thrown at me. I love unforeseen twists and turns, and I felt like I mostly got that at the beginning and the end of the story. I could have used a few more loops or corkscrews in the middle.

Consensus:
I would definitely recommend this book as a refreshing new approach to dragons and a brilliant blending of fantasy with real-world problems. But do not be surprised if there are more school scenes with spark-snorting tempers, than actual dragon scenes. And have a snack on-hand.

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