I was lucky enough to request and be approved to read an early copy of this on netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All views and opinions are my own.
The Crackledawn Dragon by Abi Elphinstone, cover art by George Ermos, published by Simon and Schuster
If you don’t already know, I am a MASSIVE fan of Abi Elphinstone’s books (see this post) so I have been itching to read this ever since finishing Jungledrop (reviewed here) last year; it was a definite drop-all-other-reads-immediately when I was approved to read this on netgalley!
This is the third Unmapped Chronicle, following on from Rumblestar and Jungledrop, which in turn follow on from the prequel Everdark (originally released as a World Book Day £1 book, this has recently been re-released for general sale in a dyslexia-friendly format with a cover to match the rest of the series. How ace is that?!)
But back to Crackledawn! If you’re new to the Unmapped Kingdoms, this will read fine as a standalone, as each book in the series is set in a different world with different characters. However, the later books do refer back to the earlier ones and you’ll get so many more squeals of delight and surprise and excitement out of them if you read them in order.
Each Unmapped Chronicle sees children from the Faraway (our world) journey to the Unmapped Kingdoms, where our weather is made, to defeat the evil Morg as she tries to gain control and prevent a new phoenix from rising, thus depleting the magic there completely and destroying the Unmapped Kingdoms, and in turn the Faraway.
We rejoin Morg plotting to return from the bottom of the never-ending well she was left trapped in by the Petty-Squabbles. Biding her time, she’s patiently prepared for one final attempt to seize the Unmapped Kingdoms and Zebedee Bolt is just the boy to help her…
On the run from the most recent in a run of an apathetic foster families, an inept social worker and a life in which Zeb feels very alone, the offer of a new start full of riches is too tempting to resist. And so, Zeb is brought to help Morg find the Ember Scroll that will seal the fate of the worlds forever.
Luckily, a combination of fates, fear and phoenix magic sees Zeb embark on a mission to save the worlds from Morg and her midnights instead (and I say it every time but, please, PLEASE can someone form a band called Morg and the Midnights?!)
And here our adventure truly begins. Zeb joins forces with the Kerfuffle – a gloriously magical boat – and its crew, the equally glorious Mrs Fickletint and Oonie – albeit begrudgingly at first!
Seeing Oonie and Zeb overcome their insecurities and defensiveness as they tentatively build their friendship, their self-confidence and their willingness to place their trust in others is a heart-warming thing. And Mrs Fickletint is just brilliant.
And so we sail straight into another of Abi’s fantastically crafted worlds.
To have an imagination that comes up with what Abi’s does is quite something. Her worlds are always fizzing with magic and bursting with the weird, wondrous and wonderful. And Crackledawn is no different.
From hurtles and squidges and threadbears to fusilly and calm trees and DIY-trees to spectacular underwater scenes and sea witches, the way Abi’s storytelling mind works and the wordplay, names and creations it conjures is nothing short of joyful. I’m grinning again just thinking back on them all now.
Oh, and then there’s the dragon(s!).
You didn’t think I’d forgotten the titular fire-breather did you?!
Imposing, imperious and mightily impressive – from the skeletal dragon fighting Morg’s corner to the rarely seen dragons of the Unmapped Kingdoms who value their solitude and privacy, they are vividly described with an ancient air of magic and mystery, wisdom and understanding – these are the sort of dragons you immediately think of when thinking of storybook dragons. And tender-hearted, loyal Snaggle is just THE BEST! If you’re a fan of a dragon in an adventure YOU NEED TO READ THIS.
And there are so many other well-crafted characters too – from ancient elephant Trunpletusk with her memory collection to Perpetual Faff and her chaotic handbag to yoga-loving goblin Dollop, they’re as fun and fantastic as you’d expect.
This is a gripping adventure with a finale fans of the series are going to absolutely ADORE! I loved it.
Drama, tension and excitement in the race against time to beat Morg. Heart, hope and understanding in the personal stories of Zeb and Oonie. Imagination and joy in the wonderful world, journey and characters we encounter. This is a fantastic end to a fantastic series.