I’ve loved Scarlett Thomas for a long time. I first read The End Of Mr Y as a student – thrilled at its weirdness, its boldness. She wrote my favourite book on writing, Monkeys With Typewriters, which I read every year. So, as a heads up, I wasn’t going into this review entirely neutral. I wanted to like this.
And I did. Dragon’s Green is a proper gem of a book, full of adventure, friendship and magic. It reminded me of the Harry Potter books and Tom’s Midnight Garden – the same gloss of magic laid over the everyday world, allowing you to insert your own child self into the story – who isn’t secretly still waiting for their Hogwarts letter?
Effie, our heroine, lives in a world a lot like our own, except that a few years ago there was a Worldquake – a huge event that knocked out a lot of modern technology, including the internet and mobile phones. She attends the Tusitala School for the Gifted, Troubled and Strange and spends much of her time being cared for by her Grandfather, who claims to be able to do magic.
Effie is an appealing and charming new heroine – admirable in many ways, but not perfect. All the child characters feel very vividly alive, even Effie’s baby sister Luna, who can’t talk and spends most of the book asleep. The adult characters are much more foggy – but that is perhaps as they should be. No one cares much about boring grown ups in Dragon’s Green.
One of the things Iiked most about Dragon’s Green is that it’s completely unpatronising. The riddles are properly hard, the situations are properly creepy, and the references to classical mythology are left unexplained.
As in all the best children’s books, the characters in Dragon’s Green solve their problems with cleverness, kindness and bravery. The slight issues with tone and over-inclusion of content are easily forgivable because I just agreed with it all so much. Yes. That is how you should treat your friends. That is how you should deal with dragons. Quite right.
While not perfect, the warmth and magic of Dragon’s Green make it an instant classic. I started this book on Christmas Eve – a time that always makes me think of curling up and hot chocolate and Narnia. It felt just like it used to, and the book stands up to the ones I read as a kid. If you know any bookish 10 year olds (or anyone who used to be one), they’d like this.