When you have too much sadness, the magic drowns in it, like people in water. If you think things hard enough, they become true. But if you have sadness inside, all that comes out of your head is sadness. (p. 35)
Sometimes a book finds you at the right time. That’s what happened to me with Silvana de Mari’s The Last Dragon. I was in the middle of reading this book when I lost a friend of mine to her own mental illness. It was exactly the book I needed at that time.
Yorshkrunsquarkljolnerstri, “Yorsh” for short, is the last elf. He lost his mother at a young age, and his grandmother sent him away while she remained in their house and drowned. Though he is one born lately, as he so often reminds his companions, he has already experienced much misery. As Yorsh and the two humans he meets travel through the city of Daligar, he reads a prophecy concerning the last dragon and the last elf breaking the circle. He immediately recognizes himself as the last elf, and knows he must find the last dragon. Armed with his father’s traveling map and the support of two humans shunned for helping him, Yorsh sets out to find this last dragon and break the circle.
This book strikes a delicate balance between pathos and humor. Yorsh’s disdain for what he perceives as human lack of intelligence is juxtaposed with his own naivete, leading to misunderstandings that while intended to be funny, could become grating if the book relied on them exclusively for its humor. Fortunately, this sort of comedy is just embellishment on a book that is of great substance. As Yorsh grows, he learns about the world around him, and his eyes are opened.
At the heart of the book is the idea that you cannot trust your own preconceived notions about people you’ve never met. Yorsh’s ideas about humans, humans’ ideas about elves, and everyone’s ideas about dragons turn out to be extremely off-base. Around this theme, Silvana de Mari builds a world populated with characters both endearing and terrifying. This is a dystopian society, but its children live lives filled with hope, despite their desperate conditions. Yorsh, the last dragon, and these children unite to change their world for the better.
While The Last Dragon gets off to a slow start, its characters are so touching that it’s worth it to read all the way to the end. Yorsh and his companions are darlings, and you want to see how they fare in their quest to improve their world. I would recommend this book to lovers of fantasy, as well as readers who may need some hope in a dark time of life.
Book: The Last Dragon (Affiliate Link)
Author: Silvana De Mari
Original Publication Date: 2006
Age Range: Middle Grades
Source of Book: Library
Other Blog Reviews: Original Content, Si, se puede, Wands and Worlds, The Brookeshelf,