Jake Mendoza lives at the Makepeace Institute of Integrated Dragon Studies in Smokehill National Park. Smokehill is home to about two hundred of the few remaining draco australiensis, which is extinct in the wild. Keeping a preserve for dragons is controversial: detractors say dragons are extremely dangerous and unjustifiably expensive to keep and should be destroyed. Environmentalists and friends say there are no records of them eating humans and they are a unique example of specialist evolution and must be protected. But they are up to eighty feet long and breathe fire.
On his first overnight solo trek, Jake finds a dragon--a dragon dying next to the human she killed. Jake realizes this news could destroy Smokehill-- even though the dead man is clearly a poacher who had attacked the dragon first, that fact will be lost in the outcry against dragons.
But then Jake is struck by something more urgent--he sees that the dragon has just given birth, and one of the babies is still alive. What he decides to do will determine not only their futures, but the future of Smokehill itself.
Showing 1-2 of the 2 most recent reviews
1 . Unusual.
Posted June 13, 2009 by Jes6ica , GÃ¶teborgNot one of my favorite McKinley books, but that said, this was an interesting "first-hand account" of a young man who learns responsibility by caring for another being. Dragons are something in between illegal and protected, and this takes place in a park preserve where dragons exist...somewhere, though no one has actually seen them up until now...
2 . Not the usual Robin McKinley
Posted January 31, 2009 by Avid reader , Los AngelesThis was the first book in a long while that I could not finish. I had to walk away, because I was bored! The characters were not very engaging, and the plot was incredibly long and drawn out. The narrative kept jumping from the past to the present. I normally like this author's work, especially "Sunshine", which should have done the blockbuster business that "Twilight" undeservedly did.
September 19, 2007
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Excerpt from Dragonhaven by Robin McKinley
I didn't see anything that day but ordinary eastern Smokehill landscape, and little stuff like squirrels, and a few deer and wild sheep. But the weirdest thing is that by the time I got to Pine Tor I had this huge harrowing sense of urgency, instead of feeling good and tired and pleased with myself--and maybe deciding to go a last leisurely quarter-mile farther to make it twenty miles and then find a nice place to camp didn't register with me at all. I was so wired I couldn't stand still, despite how tired I was. I had to keep going. Where? What? Huh?
I have to say I'd made unbelievable time. That sounds like bragging but it's important for what happened. I got to Pine Tor and it was still afternoon. I stood there, panting, looking around, like I was looking for a Rangers' mark, except I'd already found the one that was there. I wasn't even very interested in the fact that Pine Tor itself looked just like Grace's--Billy's wife--drawing of it and so it was like I had seen it before. It was like I was waiting. . . .
Waiting. . . .
I knew what the smell was immediately, even though I'd never smelled it before. The wind was blowing away from me or I'd've smelled it a lot sooner. My head snapped around like a dog's and I set off toward it, like it was pulling me, like it was a rope around my neck being yanked. No, first I stopped and took a very close look at where I was. Pine Tor is big, and I needed to be able to find not just it again, but the right side of it. I was about to set off cross country, away from the Rangers' trail and the Rangers' marks--the thing I was above all expressly forbidden to do--and I had to be able to find my way back. Which proves that at least some of my brain cells were working.
It wasn't very far, and when I got there I was glad the wind was blowing away from me. The smell was overwhelming. But then everything about it was overwhelming. I can't tell you . . . and I'm not going to try. It'll be hard enough, even now, just telling a little.
It was a dead--or rather a dying--dragon. She lay there, bleeding, dying, nearly as big as Pine Tor. Stinking. And pathetic. And horrible. She wasn't dying for any good reason. She was dying because somebody--some poacher--some poacher in Smokehill--had killed her. If everything else hadn't been so overpowering that alone would have stopped me cold.
I was seeing my first dragon up close. And she was mutilated and dying.
She'd got him too, although it was too late for her. When I saw him--what was left of him--I threw up. It was completely automatic, like blinking or sneezing. He was way beyond horrible but he wasn't pathetic. I was glad he was dead. I was just sorry I'd seen him. It.
There were a couple of thoughts trying to go through my head as I stood there, gasping and shaking. (I was shaking so hard I could barely stand up, and suddenly my knapsack weighed so much and hung on my back so clumsily it was going to make me fall down.) We don't have poachers at Smokehill. The fence keeps most of them out; even little half-hearted attempts to breach it make a lot of alarms go off back at the Rangers' headquarters and we're allowed to call out a couple of National Guard helicopters if enough of those alarms go off in the same place. (Some other time I'll tell you about getting helicopters through the gate.) It's happened twice in my lifetime. No one has ever made it through or over the fence before a helicopter has got there--no one ever had. Occasionally someone manages to get through the gate, but the Rangers always find them before they do any damage--sometimes they're glad to be found. Even big-game-hunter-type major assho--idiots sometimes find Smokehill a little too much. I'd never heard of anyone killing a dragon in Smokehill--ever--and this wasn't the sort of thing Dad wouldn't have told me, and it was the sort of thing I'd asked. Nor, of course, would he have let me do my solo if there was any even vague rumor of poachers or big-game idiots planning to have a try.
The other thing that was in my head was how I knew she was female: because of her color. One of the few things we know about dragon births is that Mom turns an all-over red-vermilion-maroon-with-orange-bits during the process, and dragons are green-gold-brown-black mostly, with sometimes a little red or blue or orange but not much. Even the zoos had noticed the color change. Old Pete had taken very careful notes about his mom dragons, and he thought it was something to do with getting the fire lit in the babies' stomachs. It's as good a guess as any.
But that was why the poacher'd been able to get close to her, maybe. Dragons--even dragons--are probably a little more vulnerable when they're giving birth. Apparently this one hadn't had anyone else around to help her. I didn't know why. Old Pete thought a birthing mom always had a few midwives around.