Set in an alternative history, Dragon’s Keep is the story of Rosalind, the future 26th queen of Wilde Island, off the northern coast of the British mainland. Wilde Island is rough country, the place outlaws and treasonous royals are exiled. Rosalind’s ancestors were sent there by Uther Pendragon after a plot to depose him was foiled. Rosalind’s mother, the 25th queen, believes Rosalind will fulfill a prophecy, that she will be the one to end a war with the wave of her hand. The queen believes that war is the one currently being fought on the European mainland, but to make it possible for Rosalind to marry well and to end the war the queen must hide Rosalind’s secret–Rosalind’s ring finger is actually a dragons claw.
Her claw binds Rosalind to the dragons who live in their keep on a nearby island and regularly visit Wilde Island to feast on the inhabitants. The claw pulsates when certain dragons are near; one dragon sees it and licks it fondly sparring Rosalind’s life. What is the truth behind the claw? Can Rosalind keep it hidden? If anyone finds out about the claw she will surely be burned as a witch; it’s likely that her mother will as well.
I found Dragon’s Keep to be a captivating tale, harder to put down as it went along. There are many surprises along the way, none of which disappoint. We find out the secret behind the claw, of course, and discover as Rosalind does that the claw will end the war between humans and dragons. This does not happen in expected ways. The dragons are not nice dragons; dealing with them is not an easy task. The characters in the book are complicated, interesting, and almost always sympathetic often in spite of their actions. Rosalind’s mother is probably the closest thing in the book to a villain, but her actions are understandable even if they are disagreeable.
The writing itself is excellent, one or two cuts above what you’ll usually find in a young adult fantasy novel. Janet Lee Carey can hold her own against the best of them in this genre; I bet she could do pretty darn well in any genre she chooses. In Dragon’s Keep she creates a world that is close enough to ours to be familiar but still strange enough to be its own contained reality. The story could very well have been one told to the Knights of the Round Table. While the book is being marketed to young adults there is absolutely no reason why it should be limited to this one audience.
I first ran this review on my old blog, Ready When You Are, C. B. back in 2008. Shortly after running it I asked the author for an interview. She said yes, so I quickly read everything by her that I could get my hands on. The interview experience was terrific. Ms. Carey even sent me her new book once it came out. In the years since, a second book set in the world of Dragon’s Keep has come out. I’m planning on reading it over the summer. Looking forward to another trip to Wilde Island.