Dragon’s Milk by Susan Fletcher has been sitting on my shelf since elementary school. Did I read it back then? I have no recollection, but I decided it was finally time to read it.
Let me tell you, for a book that was published in 1989, this book is incredibly relevant and was surely ahead of its time.
First, it features a heroine, Kaeldra, who feels out of place not just in her own home but in the world at large. It features dragons, although personally, I don’t think they ever went out of style. And it features a green narrative, utilizing Dragons as part of an ecosystem where all things have a right to be.
It’s a young adult novel, so this isn’t A Song of Ice and Fire or even Tolkien. It is, however, such a lovely introduction into a world of dragons and lore of something beyond our world that this might now be my go-to suggestion for kids who want to read fantasy.
As I researched the availability of the book, I discovered that Fletcher wrote a prequel and two sequels totaling four novels that make up The Dragon Chronicles. I may have to dive deeper into the series. I am happy, nevertheless, that Dragon’s Milk was the first book published because I do prefer to consume books in their published order.
In Dragon’s Milk, Kaeldra’s foster sister Lyf has fallen ill with a sickness that can be healed with dragon’s milk. Though the existence of dragons is murky at best, her Granmyr sets her on a quest to get the liquid, putting into motion a journey more epic than Granmyr could have foreseen.
Along the way, Kaeldra and the reader learn lessons of the larger world, with lore being taught by other characters and from different sources. Quotes from journals, guides, and books begin each chapter, which helps build the world without completely filling in the gaps. I like that form of storytelling – letting the reader know enough to go on, but not completely spelling it out. This is great in all forms of storytelling, not just in young adult fiction.
From the point of view of a younger person reading this book, I love the sentiment of Granmyr when she tells Kaeldra, “I know, my child. You thought I had powerful magic. But my spells are spells of knowing, not of changing. And the years have worn away most of what poor power I once possessed.” To many children, their parents, older family members, and other adults all have “spells of knowing,” and the deception is that in our younger lives, we think of our parents in terms of having spells of knowing and changing because they control so much.
About halfway through my completion of this book, I was thanking my younger self for keeping this book on my shelf. Not all of the books on your shelf are good, no matter how many times they’ve moved from apartment to apartment or home to home. That may especially be certain if that book has been with you since you were living at home as a child and your biggest worry was what to do after school.
But Dragon’s Milk is a book of lasting value that breaks the mold, that is meant to move from place to place because it’s worth holding on to. I don’t know when or if I’ll get to Susan Fletcher’s other Dragon Chronicle books, but I’m definitely considering it.
Meanwhile, you should consider reading Dragon’s Milk yourself, or at least consider giving it to a youth in your life who loves reading, or maybe even one that doesn’t. This is the kind of book that could change their mind about reading.
After all, it only takes one good book to get you hooked.