Dragons Of The Watch is the final (I think) book in the Chiril Chronicles by Donita Paul. To date it’s my favorite by this talented author who specializes in the “cozy fantasy.” Written for all ages, the books have a decided lean toward young adult, and this one is no exception.
The Story. In the imaginary world where Wulder is the One Supreme Being, Creator of all, seven high and seven low races people the various continents. In Chiril, however, there are few urohms–gentle giants reaching as tall as fourteen feet.
When Princess Tipper sends out invitations to her wedding to all citizens of Chiril, a young tumanhofer country girl named Ellicinderpart Clarenbessipawl (she goes by Ellie) wants to attend in the worst way. Her aunt agrees to take her, but as the trip begins, Ellie must corral one of the family goats, her favorite. Her aunt instructs her to meet up with their carriage after she takes care of her responsibility.
After capturing her pet amid inclement weather, Ellie gets turned around in the fog. She heads toward a shaft of light and walks, or is pushed by her goat, through a shiny surface. When she turns to look for the trail, she can no longer see the countryside she left. Instead, she is in an enclosed city founded by urohms from another part of the world. Now she is the only tumanhofer, and perhaps the only person, in a place built for giants. Or is she?
That’s really just the set up. The story is all about what happens in Rumbard City, and it’s good, oh, so good. But I don’t want to give any spoiler.
Strengths. As always, Donita’s strength is her characters. I was very quickly caring for Ellie, longing with her to attend the wedding, exasperated at the delay she faced, fearing as she did that she might miss it all, that she might never see her home again.
Ellie, it turns out, had never heard of Wulder, but she isn’t an ugly, mean-spirited, or unkind girl. Just the opposite. She is pleasant, wise (though she thinks herself quite unsophisticated and therefore the target of mockery), industrious, and compassionate.
The other characters are either equally likable, or they are interesting. In other words none in the entire cast drags the story down or makes it uninteresting.
The plot is quite good, too. Ellie has a clear goal, but when there seems to be no way out, she makes new plans and works to carry them out. The story, therefore, moves forward at a good pace, and I found myself cheering for Ellie to succeed.
There are lots and lots of good thematic threads in the story, all placed very naturally, rising from the circumstances and the character needs. I’ll add that I think in the current climate in Western society, these truths are especially important. I’ll give you a hint–they center on child-rearing.
The story is light and fun. There is definitely conflict, and the obstacles seem believably difficult and/or scary, yet there is an undercurrent of humor and joy and hope. It’s hard to imagine that tragedy will strike, though it threatens in such a believable way, I had to remind myself a time or two, This is a cozy fantasy. A cozy!
I’m a fan of twists and there is one significant twist toward the end that I didn’t see coming at all. It added another layer of tension to the story and provided a perfect set-up for the climax and resolution.
Weaknesses. Toward the end I thought there was a plot point that could have been developed more. Late in the story the characters discover an underground system of tunnels that connected to an ancient, abandoned city. However, the reader was not privy to the first efforts to explore this area. Instead, through narrative one character discloses that there have been daily trips searching out the tunnels.
Soon after, the reader does enter the tunnels with the main characters, but all that happens there could just as easily have taken place in Rumbard City proper. Furthermore, I don’t recall any explanation of how the underground city came to be or what its connection was with the urohms who lived above.
I found one element in the story to be predictable, but it fit well with the cozy fantasy genre–where danger is an arm’s length away instead of in your face–so I didn’t mind the way this particular event played out. Others might think it was too obvious.
Recommendation. Dragons Of The Watch is a must read for fans of Donita Paul. I highly recommend it to readers who enjoy a light fantasy–not light-weight in substance, but not dark or filled with angst. It’s an uplifting story, a book I looked forward to pulling out when I had time to read.
Originally posted at A Christian Worldview of Fiction.