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Can a zero become a hero?
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.
'Dragon Run' Right Into this World
I love me some good ol’ fashioned world development. Don’t even get me started on the complexities of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth, or J.K. Rowling’s developed magical world in the Harry Potter series, because you’ll need a Time-Turner to get back the time you spent listening to me go on about how much I loved the intricate details of each of these author’s worlds. Now I have a new world to chat about thanks to Patrick Matthews’s “Dragon Run.”
In “Dragon Run,” twelve-year-old Al and his friends are getting ready for Testing Day, the day that will determine the direction their lives will take from here on out. Testing Day assigns each person a rank from one to seven, with a higher rank meaning a better position a person has in society. Al’s Testing Day does not go quite as well as planned, catapulting readers into the adventure of the book. It’s all the details Matthews offers in Al’s adventures that really make this an interesting read.
Matthews introduces readers to new humanoid yet mythical species we’ve never seen before. There are the outrageously tall and extremely furry windwalkers who have the magical skills to manipulate the air. There are the broad-shouldered and long-limbed earthers who can claw through solid rock. There are the web-fingered and gilled waterfolk. All of these species play an important role in Al’s story and add new elements to the library of mythical creatures that we haven’t seen before.
Regardless of species, all creatures in “Dragon Run” must answer to dragons. Matthews’s take on dragons is fresh. Instead of being bloodthirsty beasts, these are power hungry and manipulative dragons who have convinced humans, waterfolk, windwalkers, and earthers that they were all created by dragons to do their bidding. Rather than intimidate people by sheer force, dragons have concocted an intricate mind game that borders on a religious cult in order to get other species to submit to their rules.
One of these rules is that only a select few are allowed to practice magic. The power of magic is activated by getting a special sort of tattoo, which is yet another cool detail in the world Matthews has created. Tattoos have a lot of significance in “Dragon Run,” which not only allow the use of magic, but also indicate rank and hometown of the person tattooed.
It’s Matthews’s little details like these that create a great big world, one in which I hope to be in again.
Interesting take on dragons.
A great big world full of intricate details.
Al has high hopes for his Testing, but is assigned a zero, the lowest rank in his medeivalish community. A guard helps him escape because of a hat he has borrowed, and tells him that Cullers want to kill not only him, but his entire family. His friend Wisp's father, a former military man involved in a horrible dragon battle, knew that Al would be a zero and warned the family. Al heads to Brighton and teams up with Bird, an "earther", and the two are in the city when it is attacked by rockeaters. They are then accused of stealing and meet Magister Lundi, who is impressed with Al but throws him in jail anyway. He escapes, and ends up in Dockside, where he reconnects with Wisp as well as friend Trillia. Al has discovered that the dragons whom he has been taught protect everyone really are evil and are sucking Potentia out of everyone. Will's zero rating means that he transmits the least amount of power to the dragons; hence he is useless to them, and the Cullers are there to insure that zeroes are wiped out. After escaping Cullers yet again, Al proves invaluable to Magister Lundi in defeating the evil Lord Archover and the dragons.