Dragon School: First Flight by Sarah K. L. Wilson
This is definitely one for a younger crowd, so keep that in mind as you read my review. Frankly, if I was in high school, I'd probably have eaten this up. It's quick, it checks all the boxes; excitement, romance, proving worth against bullies. I could describe it as if Harry Potter and Divergent had a baby, which was into dragons, but you could read it in an hour and it probably wouldn't appeal much to adults.
In Dragon School: First Flight, Amel Leafbrought wants to make her dreams come true. She wants to become a Dragon Rider and change her fate. Her problem? Aside from coming from a poor family, a childhood accident left her crippled.
Despite massive adversity, the beginning of the book finds her in Dragon School, about to choose a dragon mount and begin learning how to be a dragon rider.
Pluck in the Face of Jerks
Plucky is absolutely the first word that comes to mind when I think of Amel. As a child, her hip was crushed, so she's grown up needing a crutch to get around. This makes her a huge burden on her family, so she decides to leave them and go become a Dragon Rider. This is... okay I guess. I mean, it seems odd to me that she doesn't think she can live a normal peasant life, but can be a badass warrior, doing something that is incredibly physically demanding. This might have been easier to swallow if we knew her inspiration to take on such an impossible task. I assume it comes up in a later book.
Luckily for Amel, Dragon School can't turn any volunteer away, no matter what. But, of course, nobody expects her to succeed and there is a bit of bullying directed at her. Plus, nobody really wants to talk to her because the assumption is that she's going to be one of the first to die during the process of initiation. So, Amel goes through much of the book having to deal with having no friends. Oh, and also ladders. Nothing like a person with a bum leg having to climb a heck of a lot of ladders, but Dragon School is pretty much located in a cliff, so...
There Are Some Issues
This is a first book in the series, so it's not surprising there are a few rough spots. Amel seems to have trouble understanding some basic concepts. She comes to Dragon School knowing that many trainees and recruits die. People talk about it all the time. Then, she is genuinely shocked that parts of Dragon School, like taking care of dragons, riding dragons, etc, are dangerous. She also doesn't seem to understand that whether she bonds with a dragon or not, neither of them are going to have freedom from their obligations, despite this too being repeated over and over by various parties.
The whole idea of Dragon School is also a bit shaky. Wild dragons are, well, wild and likely to tare your arm off. Dragons bred in captivity are docile and will let anyone handle them. But new recruits are meant to learn how to ride the wild ones. This makes no sense from a logical standpoint. Also, Dragon School is the result of a treaty between man and dragon, but I really don't see what the dragons get out of it, since they're quintessentially enslaved.
There's some weak character development as well and a rather awkward heel-turn toward the end of the book. I think part of the problem is that it's so short it's hard to really get a handle on the characters. This probably isn't as much of a problem if you continue with the series. I may check out a few more books in the series, since as of today they are all available on Amazon's Kindle Unlimited program.
My Overall Impression
I think a younger audience will really like this series, particularly girls. There's a nice little romance brewing already, which absolutely screams Divergent. I don't think I'd recommend this to most adults, but if you really like Young Adult Fantasy, you'll probably want to check it out.
What's it Like?
Harry Potter meets Divergent meets any number of dragon rider stories.
Bechdel Test: Pass