Friday, May 16, 2014

"Dragon's Bait" by Vivian Vande Velde

But Litha, it's almost a children's book! you bemoan.
Yes, but it feels more like Young Adult, practically Adult, I reply, wiping my stinging eyes from the strain of looking at a computer for the past four days. My brain needs a rest. I'll get back to writing about Adult things later. Besides, people seem to like YA more than Adult books anyhow. My book blogging prowess will be proved if I manage to write all the reviews I've promised for every day this week. Just let me critique more books about dragons. They're the only ones I truly enjoy.
Fine, you respond. But when will we get more critiques on classics?
I gaze unseeingly into the distance as my mind struggles to compute the word "classic".
*End Scene*
And that is why I am reduced to critiquing a children's book that is thinner than my little finger. I admit, my powers of writing book critiques may be challenged as this week endures, but a promise is a promise, regardless of my constant procrastination.
Proof it is thinner than my pinkie.

Dragon's Bait was a book I picked up at a thrift shop when I was a tween, but didn't read it in its entirety until I was thirteen. While it is pretty generic in theme, I feel like it is a classic, as it stands the test of time. It was written the year I took my first breath, 1992, but I could see the tweens today still easily enjoying it. It doesn't read like an "early nineties" book, it feels timeless.

The Plot:
Fifteen year old Alys is accused of witchcraft by her neighbors, after her father refused to sell his land to them. An Inquisitor is brought in to question her, and prove or disprove if she is, in fact, a witch. Everyone who disputes that she is not a witch is relatively ignored or jeered at. Witnesses claim she made a boy drop his hammer with her witch powers. It is decided they will stake her out on a remote hillside where a dragon is said to roam, effectively turning her into... Dragon's Bait.

This plot bears similarity to many stories, but foremost in my mind as I briefly re-skimmed it was the obvious resemblance to the Salem Witch Trials. The Inquisitor is a man of God, and clearly has no problem with encouraging the villagers to turn against Alys. The neighbors had a clear motive to want Alys gone, as her father is sickly, and barely scrapes by financially with her help, and without her, he would be forced to sell his land. The neighbors fabricate testimony so Alys will be charged, when they themselves are in the wrong.

When you finish the book, you are left wanting more. It is inevitable that any good book with a scant 131 pages will make you desire to see more of Alys and the dragon. But the author's gift to you is this: you get to imagine what happens after the ending, and so the book's ending is only limited by your imagination.

Rating: An easy 4 out of 5 stars, for a tiny book that is still relevant 22 years later.

Content: This is for grade levels 6+, or roughly 12 years and up.

Page Count: Tiny but powerful at 131 pages.


  1. Sometimes I have to take a break and read children's books too. It still amazes me how authors can fit such a fulfilling plot into only 130 pages. The next time my brain threatens to quit on me, this is the book I will pick up.

    1. Definitely a good one for brain malfunctions. Thanks for commenting!


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