Icefire: Older, darker, more complicated

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewschildren's fantasy book review Chris d'Lacey Dragons of Wayward Cresent The Fire WithinIcefire by Chris d’Lacey

Icefire is Chris d’Lacey’s second book in the Last Dragon Chronicles, following up on The Fire Within and continuing the story of David, the Pennykettles (Liz and Lucy), and the clay dragons that are much more than they appear. The Fire Within seems a wholly different construct from the succeeding novels — simpler, lighter in tone, feeling a bit younger in terms of target audience. Icefire begins the shift toward older, darker, more complicated storytelling.

Dragons play a much larger role in Icefire, as one might expect, and we start to get a sense of the clay dragons as distinct personalities. They still seem to lean a bit young to me in terms of readership, though one in particular faces some more mature, sophisticated moral choices. We learn more about the past history of dragons, the fate of the last dragon’s tear and what makes it so powerful. D’Lacey adds another thread to this history by introducing a small group of polar bears who somehow became guardians of the tear and are now taking an active role once again.

As David learns more about dragon history and slightly more about Lucy and Liz’s involvement with them, the Pennykettles become a bit more complex as characters. Meanwhile, we see another side of Mr. Bacon, the grouchy neighbor, who grows beyond the somewhat cardboard picture of him in The Fire Within. Relationships deepen and the story becomes more complicated with the addition of a new character, Zanna, a goth college student acquaintance of David’s who works her way into David and the Pennykettle’s lives. Another new character is one of David and Zanna’s professors, a man with a mysterious past and a possible link to the polar bears.The Last Dragon Chronicles Kindle Edition

The character with the largest impact, however, is a long-lived witch named Gwilanna who lusts after the dragon’s tear and seemingly will do anything to find it. She is the major reason for the darker tone, as she provides an out-and-out villain. In The Fire Within, the “villain” was Mr. Bacon, a grumpy neighbor with a less than charitable view toward animals. Gwilanna is villainy on an entirely different scale: devious, cruel, deceptive, going so far as to manipulating minds and harshly interrogating a poor dragon.

Like The Fire Within, Icefire is a quick read, but d’Lacey has done a nice job of complicating plot, deepening characters, expanding story, heightening tension, and raising the stakes. It doesn’t have the whimsical charm of the first book, but it balances that loss in a variety of ways, making it a strong second book and one aimed at slightly older readers than the first book — probably up to age 12 or 13. Recommended.

Review addendum by Bill’s son, Kaidan Capossere, age 9:

I’d rank Icefire a strong 4.5. I thought it was more suspenseful, though I would have liked less about the history because I thought it became a little repetitive, especially in later books. I liked that there were more dragons and not so much on squirrels. My favorite part was when the dragon G’reth and the cat Bonnington were working together to get the dragon’s scale from Gwilanna. The fact that there was a villain made it better. My favorite characters were the same as in the first book: Lucy, David, and the dragons. Zanna, though, was a much more interesting female character than Sophie in book one. She made the book better, especially in the fight with Gwilanna. It was unpredictable (especially the part about Sophie) and kept me on my toes enough to enjoy it. So far (I’m on book five) this is my favorite in the series.

Published in 2003. The second in a series from bestselling author Chris d’Lacey. Full of adventure and suspense, this novel about dragons reveals the truth of the icefire. When David is assigned an essay on the history of dragons, there is only one thing he knows for sure — he wants to win the prize of a research trip to the Arctic. As David begins to dig deeper into the past, he finds himself drawn down a path from which there is no going back . . . to the very heart of the legend of dragons, and the mysterious, ancient secret of the icefire. . . .

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BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.

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