March 29, 2013

Dragon Run - Patrick Matthews

Dragon Run cover
Dragon Run by Patrick Matthews
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: March 1, 2013
Source/Format: Netgalley (Thanks Scholastic!) || e-galley
[I received this book from the publisher. This in no way affects the thoughts expressed in my review.]

Testing Day is supposed to be a day of celebration for Al Pilgrommor. Born into a wealthy family, he expects to follow in his successful father's footsteps. Of course, that all depends on the rank number Al receives at the testing. The higher the rank he has tattooed onto his neck, the better his life will be.

To his surprise and horror, Al is revealed to be rank zero, the lowest of the low. He's now not only an outcast — he's also a danger to his entire family. So Al goes on the run, fleeing the brutal Cullers, men who hunt down zeroes . . . and put them to death.

Cast out of his home, cut off from his friends, and armed with only a sword and his wits, Al is reduced to just surviving. As he meets other outcasts, however, he begins to suspect that he is a pawn in a larger game — and that he might have the power to tip the scales in a high-stakes struggle between man and dragon. (from Goodreads)

It won’t come as a surprise to anyone that I instantly snapped up the opportunity to read Dragon Run – it’s a middle grade fantasy novel that features dragons… and is totally up my alley. Or so I thought. Unfortunately, while there were some really cool things about this book, I ended up feeling slightly let down by the time I had reached the end.

What I Liked

There’s this ranking system that the dragons use on the humans – and the logic behind it was an interesting discovery. I don’t like that humans are treated as chattel by the dragons, but this ranking system intrigued me. Once you’re tested and your rank determined, it gets tattooed onto you so that everyone knows it. These ranks allow you to apply and train for various jobs, ranging from lowly jobs for the 1 to the majestic jobs for the 7. There’s a rationale behind the ranking system, which I can’t really say since it would spoil things, but I thought that was pretty neat and made absolute sense.

I actually liked Al, even though I wanted to knock some sense into him sometimes. Al’s young, so most of his seemingly crazy actions were slightly pardonable to me. Even with the gravity of his situation, I thought he was really brave, determined to do right by his family and friends and fairly clever. Plus, he seemed to have a good head on his shoulders, despite growing up privileged and unused to the life he had to live as a 0. Though I wanted to shake his head when he rushed into crazy situations, I did think that it was normal, with him being only 12 years old.

The twists that propelled the book forward were good. Even though I thought the pacing was a little strange (more on that later), I did like it when something fortuitous would happen so that the story would continue. Al runs into a lot of tough spots in the book since he’s a 0 and that means he’s being hunted by the Cullers. Whenever he gets stuck, I always enjoyed seeing how the circumstances suddenly shift and he’s unstuck and free to move on. I think it was cleverly done on the author’s part to put them in at just the right moment.

It’s a stand-alone novel. You guys, it is very, very rare for me to read a fantasy stand-alone novel these days. I actually appreciated that everything was wrapped up by the end of the book.

The Third. I’m not even going to go into what this refers to except to say that this little side story from the past is pretty darn cool.

What I Didn’t Like

The pacing was slightly off to me. I don’t know if it was just me, but I felt weird about how the pacing was in this book. There were slight lulls of normalcy when nothing really happened and then all of a sudden, there was so much action. I think my biggest grievance in this regard was towards the ending, when all of the action suddenly kept on coming one after the other – I felt like it was all happening too much, too fast. But then again, this could have just been me.

The dragons weren’t in the book … until the end. Sure, the characters discuss the dragons and the way everything is run. But the dragons do not make much of an appearance until we’re nearly at the end of the book. I basically picked up the book to read about the dragons, so this really disappointed me.

I would have liked to learn more about the magic. Obviously, from the very beginning, we have an idea of the fact that magic exists. However, I wish there had been more information about it and how it worked. They do reveal stuff about it towards the last third of the novel, but I wished it had been brought up and explored much sooner, as I’m sure it would have added an interesting dynamic to the story.

After writing my review, I realized that I actually enjoyed Dragon Run. Sure, I had my (few) issues with the way it was told and elements that I feel should have been included more. But I think it was a fun middle-grade fantasy to read, with concepts and characters that were pretty engaging. I'm sure that most people are going to enjoy this one.


  1. It *is* rare to find a stand-alone fantasy in this day of series. This sounds like a fun book. I mean, dragons are always a win, right?

  2. I am glad you state the issues right up front, simply because after reading the good stuff and knowing what to expect with the things that weren't so good, I actually really want to check Dragon Run out of the library -- it sounds pretty interesting and I am all about standalone fantasy, even if it takes forever for the dragons to show up. Plus the world building sounds super good.

  3. It's very rare for me to read fantasy standalones these days, too. I can't even remember the last one! This sounds pretty good overall. I love the unique concept here. I've never come across something like this before - where the roles between humans and dragons are reversed. I like the sound of it! Thanks for drawing this to my attention, Alexa. :)

  4. This sounds really cute, and the fact that it's a stand alone gives it major points. I'm intrigued that the Dragons get to rank the humans, isn't it usually the other way around?

  5. Okay so obviously middle grade + dragons = LISAAAA and how funny is it that writing the review helped you to realize that you liked it more than you thought? That's so fun about blogging!

  6. Aw gee, it's too bad that there were several things that felt off to you about this book. The pacing would definitely bother me, as pacing is often that unspoken deal-breaker between a memorable book and a blah one. I think that Al would probably annoy me more than he did you, haha. Still glad I read your review, though; I hadn't even heard of this book until now and I'm happy just read that cool synopsis!


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