cover image Dragons of Darkness

Dragons of Darkness

Antonia Michaelis, , trans. from the German by Anthea Bell. . Abrams/Amulet, $18.95 (548pp) ISBN 978-0-8109-4074-1

Michaelis (Tiger Moon ) recasts modern-day Nepal as a dragon-infested fantasy kingdom, divided between a cruel and cynical military and idealistic but equally cruel Maoist guerrillas. Nepal’s king is too wrapped up in his own problems to provide the necessary leadership, and neither of the armed factions is able to do anything about the plague of dragons drinking the color from the countryside and turning its peasants into bronze statues. Nepal’s salvation falls to three 14-year-olds: Christopher, a German teenager transported through mysterious means to Nepal; Jumar, Nepal’s (literally) invisible crown prince; and brave Niya, who is in the service of the Maoists. The trio strives to unravel the occult mysteries behind Jumar’s curse, find Christopher’s missing brother, and rescue the country from the dragons and a bloody civil war. Although the fast-paced and well-constructed story is marred somewhat by mustache-twirling villains and the author’s decision to imbue real-world conflicts with a layer of fantasy, Michaelis’s characters are engaging (despite Jumar’s truly remarkable ability to walk into traps) and the romance between Niya and Christopher is touching and bittersweet. Ages 12–up. (Jan.)