cover image Dragonborn


Toby Forward. Bloomsbury, $16.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-59990-724-6

This beautifully written fantasy stars Sam, an unworldly wizard’s apprentice whose beloved master dies unexpectedly, leaving the 12-year-old boy half-trained, without clear direction, and fought over by a number of other wizards, not all of whom have his best interests at heart. Forward (The Wolf’s Story) masterfully balances humor with deadly serious content in a manner reminiscent of Lloyd Alexander at his best. His characters are, if not enormously complex, very well-drawn, particularly the wizards, whose actions can be grotesque: “A beetle scratched its way over her foot. She leaned forward, picked it up, and put it to her lips without thinking. She crunched it, sucked the soft pulp from inside.” Interspersed entries from Sam’s notebook add humor and insight while fleshing out Forward’s world (“A Wand is a bendy stick. That’s it. I’ve been told I have to write more on this page”). Also fascinating is the growing relationship between Sam and the dragon Starback, with whom Sam has a powerful psychic connection. This lovely tale, first in a series, should strongly appeal to fantasy aficionados. Ages 8–12. Agent: Tina Wexler, ICM. (Apr.)