Review of Dragonswood by Janet Lee Carey


Synopsis – From Goodreads:

Wilde Island is not at peace. The kingdom mourns the dead Pendragon king and awaits the return of his heir; the uneasy pact between dragons, fairies, and humans is strained; and the regent is funding a bloodthirsty witch hunt, hoping to rid the island of half-fey maidens.

Tess, daughter of a blacksmith, has visions of the future, but she still doesn’t expect to be accused of witchcraft, forced to flee with her two best friends, or offered shelter by the handsome and enigmatic Garth Huntsman, a warden for Dragonswood. But Garth is the younger prince in disguise and Tess soon learns that her true father was fey, making them the center of an exciting, romantic adventure, and an ancient prophecy that will bring about peace between all three races – dragon, human, and fairy.


I recently finished the novel Dragonswood by Janet Lee Carey and I have to say I was quite surprised at how much I enjoyed it. I picked it up several times at the library, debating if I should check it out or not. I’m glad I did.

The story opens with the main character, Tess, witnessing a heartbreaking scene as a child. It quickly leaps forward to Tess at seventeen attending the funeral of her infant brother. All of her siblings have perished, leaving her the only living child in the family. She leads a very harsh and abusive life and frequently escapes to the forbidden Dragonswood to think, daydream and draw. At the age of seventeen, Tess is accused of being a witch and is thrown into a lake by the witch hunter, Lady Adela, to drown. If you want to find out what happens from there, I’m afraid you’re going to have to read the book. Sorry. I don’t do spoilers. 🙂

The story moves along at the perfect pace. There is an old-fashion feel to the narrative, the kind that makes you want to curl up with a blanket in front of a fire and read for hours until its end. The majority of the characters are introduced within the first 50 pages and the plot line is beautifully woven. The author is very descriptive in her imagery but not overly so. There are, as the back cover says, fearsome dragons, a fairy palace, a lost prince and an epic romance. There is a magical feel to the book, especially the second half when Tess discovers secrets about herself, her friends, Garth Huntsman and Dragonswood. I was invested in Tess’ and Garth’s characters from the moment of their introduction. There are two friends who remain at Tess’ side – Meg and Poppy – but they play minor roles, mainly to add secondary plot tensions.

If I had to mark the novel down for anything, I would have to say I felt some of the scenes unfolded too ‘conveniently’ for the characters. I do understand that editing probably had a lot to do with it, but there were two times I felt slightly ‘cheated’ because the scenes and subplots seemed to work out too easily.

The settings are beautifully written and I could see each one of them quite vividly. I was very impressed with the imagery and the way the author inter-wove her story with those of King Arthur and Merlin. I highly recommend this book for anyone who is looking for a relaxed, engaging young adult fantasy tale with just the right amount of magic and romance. I will certainly keep my eye out for more novels by this author.

I give this novel a firm 4 stars.