The Quick Review:
Boys between 8 and 12 will absolutely love this book; it is written perfectly for this age group. Ben the Dragonborn is a fun and exciting read that fiction-fantasy fans of any age will be able to get into. The story reads very quickly and is easy to follow. This is the kind of story you will want your children to read if you want to show them that reading can be fun; and not like all the awful books teachers make you read in grade school.
The Longer Review:
Ben the Dragon born is a great new fantasy series. The book has a recipe of successful concepts and ideas that are familiar to a YA fantasy reader, but in no way does this book seem like a copy. It is unique and original in every way.
Portals to unknown worlds; gifted children chosen for quests; an array of imaginative creatures; and a school that is magical and secretive. Fans of the 100 Cupboards series, Fablehaven, Percy Jackson, and Harry Potter will find something to love in this book.
Ben is a regular student at a not so regular school. He knows the school is different, but he and his friend cannot figure out why. A meeting with his principle turns into a quest to another world. Ben has to decide if all this is real, and if he really has what it takes to save another world from a disaster that the natives cannot fix themselves.
Astle’s writing is very easy to read and follow. Her story is not bogged down with too much detail or unnecessary back-story. Ben the Dragon born felt like a fun, bight adventure that is perfectly suited for the “Juvenile Fiction” genre.
The story reads very quickly, and the characters move very fast through the story. My only critique is a budding romance between 2 characters. They go from despising each other to putting up with each other in a few chapters. Then you turn the page and one is saying she loves the other. This happened over the course of a day, maybe two, in the story. It was just way too fast for those feelings to develop like that. That said it did not detract from or get in the way of the story, and is probably a believable progression of feeling for a very young reader.
The story follows the POV of Ben, a student at Fairhaven. He goes through most of the story with 2 companions around his age, Jared and Charla. Ben and Jared seem very average, no over the top emotions or character flaws. It is nice to see main characters who are normal, rather than super nerdy or over defiant. Charla is over confident and a little arrogant, which plays well into the adventure.
This is a must read for boys. Books like this are what get you into reading at a young age. I wish I had more stories like this when I was in grade school. It is an exciting story, full of adventure, and easy to read. I look forward to the next one.