The final book in the Unmapped Chronicles by Abi Elphinstone is every bit as exciting as its predecessors and a fitting end to this enjoyable series. This is a story that sweeps you up into an action packed adventure but also gently encourages and guides young readers.
Eleven year old Zebedee Bolt is a boy on the run. He is running away from foster families who have let him down, from adults who don’t understand him and from memories of his past. This makes Zeb vulnerable and when magic transports him to the land of Crackledawn he quickly falls under the spell of the evil harpy, Morg. When he realises his mistake he is already committed to a quest that will take him on a journey during which he discovers silver whales, evil monsters and underwater palaces but also friendship, courage and hope.
This is a world of magic, drama, adventure and excitement. The Crackledawn Dragon is first and foremost good fun to read. Abi Elphinstone is a writer who knows how to communicate with children. And I do mean ‘with’ not to. The narrative voice throughout engages with her readers and she never patronises or preaches but understands that children want to enjoy what they are reading. There is humour, not only in the names but in the conversations, a lightness of touch that makes the evil of the villain not too overwhelming for young readers.
There are some fabulous characters in this story and it is heartening to see children who are not usually depicted as heroes taking centre stage and in addition being both likeable and engaging. Zeb in particular is a boy who young readers will root for. The many characters who assist Zeb and his new friend Oonie include a talking chameleon named Mrs Fickletint who adopts a slightly maternal role with the children but is kind and wise too. A helpful elephant called Trampletusk and of course Snaggle the Dragon have key parts in the action and I must mention the yoga loving goblin, Dollop too.
There are life lessons contained within the excitement. As the adventure progresses the reader will see how important loyalty, teamwork and kindness are and above all the power of trust and hope. The optimism within this story is infectious and children will feel empowered by the growth and development of the characters. There are important links to our environment and the dangers of climate change. The threat to this magical kingdom mirrors the threat to our own habitats and the story encourages children to notice the beauty and the fragility of the natural world about them and to help to protect it if they can.
Comparison with the Narnia books is inevitable. There are similarities in some ways and in this particular story we see Zeb being seduced by power and promise in a manner reminiscent of Edmund and the White Witch. There are subtle differences however. As the last in the series this has a positive and optimistic ending whereas as a child I remember feeling a little let down and disturbed by The Last Battle. Abi Elphinstone knows her audience well and this final act in the Unmapped Chronicles drama is both satisfying and kind.
The Crackledawn Dragon was published by Simon and Schuster in June and I should like to thank the publishers for my review copy. This would work perfectly well as a stand alone book but for maximum enjoyment you many like to try the earlier stories, Everdark, Rumble Star and Jungle Drop.
You may like to watch this lovely video in which Abi introduces this book to her readers…