Emily Drake,
The Magickers #3:
The Dragon Guard

(DAW, 2003)

While The Dragon Guard represents Book 3 of a middle grade/young adult fantasy series, it is my first exposure to Emily Drake's The Magickers. A title in Old English font and a multi-color cover depicting a fantastic red dragon pitted against the magic of two contemporary children, along with a quote that "The Magickers is America's answer to the Harry Potter series," provided my first food for thought. While I found Paul Youll's cover graphics intriguing, the BookBrowser quote caused me to raise my eyebrow. Unfortunately, this brag set the bar by which I would judge the book.

Like Harry Potter in his own series, Jason Adrian is an orphan (although he lives with loving stepparents, rather than unsupportive relatives). Both characters must hide their magic from the worlds in which they exist. Also like Harry, Jason receives a special invitation to attend an institution secret to most people in his world. Camp Ravenwyng provides a summer locale for Magickers to learn "magicking," much like Hogwarts provides a school-term forum for wizardry. Both main characters have painful flesh scars (Harry's on his forehead, Jason's on his hand). Then there are the similarities between Hermione/Bailey, Ron/Trent and Lord Voldemort/Dark Hand of Brennard. Both Harry and Jason must endure many subplots (Potter's usually fascinating, while many of Jason's prove mundane or unresolved) to ultimately save their worlds from the enemy. Amazingly, with all its parallels in plot and character, The Dragon Guard proves very much unlike the Harry Potter series.

The Harry Potter similarities work heavily against this book. First, because they cause it to smack of a lack of originality, and secondly because they cause unflattering comparisons -- in which Emily Drake's writing, characterization and plotting skills fall short of J.K. Rowling's.

Even if the Harry Potter comparison had not been made, The Dragon Guard still proves difficult to get past.

- Rambles
written by Lynne Remick
published 25 October 2003

Buy it from Amazon.com.