Jason Hightman,
The Saint of Dragons
(Eos/HarperCollins, 2004)

Young Simon St. George has never known his parents. He has always lived at the Lighthouse School for Boys, looked after by the elderly lighthouse keeper and his wife. Because he often helps the lighthouse keeper with little tasks and chores around the school, a rumor has circulated that he's an orphan, only at the school as a charity case. Consequently, none of the other boys, all scions of wealthy families, will have anything to do with him.

And then, one strange Halloween day, two men suddenly appear at the school claiming to be Simon's father. One is a scruffy wanderer with a horse, while the other travels in a sleek white limousine. You can guess which Simon wishes were his father -- and which actually is.

Carried off by Aldric St. George, the man on the horse, Simon finds himself in the midst of a heroic quest that has been going on for centuries -- to find and destroy every last dragon on Earth. It seems that dragons cause most of the misery in the world and the St. George family has been hunting and destroying them for centuries. Aldric St. George is now the last of his kind, alone and partnerless; though dragonhunters have always been paired with magicians, the last magician was killed by a dragon years ago.

Saint of Dragons presents dragons in a new and different manner -- they, like homo sapiens, have evolved. Dragons walk upright (well, hunched over to disguise their height) and can cast a glamour to hide their saurian features, thus appearing human to most humans. Only magicians and dragonhunters can see them for what they are.

Aldric and Simon's adventures fighting dragons are the exciting part of the novel, but it is the relationship between father and son that forms the core of the story. Simon suddenly finds himself with the one thing he's always wished for, but Aldric regards Simon as a burden. Simon's father is an unhappy man who seems to have no desire to share his past or much of anything else with Simon (Simon only finds out his mother's name by accident). Aldric does, however, expect Simon to enter the family business. He expects Simon to follow his instructions without question or deviation and to fight creatures the boy is in no way prepared to fight. When Simon dutifully tries to help, he can't seem to do anything right and only gets in trouble.

With his father regarding him as a failure, young Simon is, if possible, unhappier than before. Father and son don't seem to relate to one another at all, until the very end of the book. At that point, the relationship seems too perfect, a convenient way for the author to end things.

However, it's possible that the target audience -- mid-grade and young adult readers -- won't notice in favor of the adventure story, which should definitely appeal to them.

- Rambles
written by Laurie Thayer
published 14 May 2005

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