The Isle of Dragons. Just the name conjures up images of boys, swords, and fire-breathing dragons. This fourth installment in Ed Dunlop's Tales from Terrestria series does not disappoint. Written as an allegory, the story is the tale of sixteen-year-old Joel, a peasant fisherman's son in Seawell, who is learning the family trade from his dad and grandfather. Mostly isolated from other kids his age, he is invited by an older and perhaps more popular youth to the mysterious and secretive Dragon Tournament.
Despite the guilt of disobeying his father and the warnings of his heart, Joel gives in to the temptation. He gets away with it, is horrified at what he sees, but goes back again and again, ignoring the voice in his head warning him to stay away, until it's too late. He finds himself a tortured slave in a faraway land, without expectations of ever seeing his family or homeland again. What he doesn't yet understand is the unconditional love of a father and the sacrifices he is willing to make for his son. The tale is woven with buckle-your-seatbelt drama--amazing loyalty and shocking betrayal, stark hopelessness and everlasting hope, agonizing sadness and immeasurable joy.
At the conclusion of the tale, the one-page Author's Note illustrates to the young reader how The
Isle of Dragons probably relates to his or her own life. Dunlop points out that dragons (or sins) come in many forms. They are all around us today, and he gently explains how to deal with them.
Even though there isn't a formal study guide to accompany these books, which are for "tweens" and above, The
Isle of Dragons and its predecessors lend themselves to small group settings in a co-op, Sunday School class, or home environment. The style of writing reminds me of radio dramas, so using it for family read-aloud time would be appropriate as well. The
Isle of Dragons could be used as part of a literature curriculum; it is certainly an outstanding example of an allegory. Creative kids could use it as a basis for a play, either at home, at a co-op, or with another performing arts group.
In addition to offering other volumes in the two Terrestria series, the author/publisher's youth-ministry-based website includes coloring pages, teachers' books and resources, and other downloadable freebies.
Pros: Getting my daughter to read isn't a problem. My boys, however, take a little more nudging. Books like this one will captivate and challenge them and keep them coming back for more. Spiritual lessons that come to life in the forms of behemoths and heroes (without witches, warlocks, and magic) are likely to stick with my young warriors and will be fun to discuss or use as illustrations later on. Even though this was the fourth in a series, The
Isle of Dragons never made me feel like I had missed something by not reading the other ones first. I am certainly even more interested in reading them now, though!
Cons: Girls (and some boys) may be turned off at the title. That's okay. They might still be tempted to see what has the other boys so excited. If not, they'll miss out on an adventure of extra-Terrestrial proportions. Although it's impossible to please everyone, it would be a shame for any to miss out on this one.
I am thrilled at the possibilities The Isle of Dragons and the other Terrestria books offer. My young sons will enjoy reading these exciting books over and over and will benefit even more by sharing them and the Gospel with their unchurched friends and family in a non-threatening way.