Verdict: BILLY BEDIVERE IN THE QUEST FOR THE DRAGON QUEEN is well-paced, and there are a few twists that will surprise readers. Kids will also enjoy the references to familiar fairy tales, and the little details that add color to the world.
Twelve year-old Billy Bedivere enjoys a good relationship with his father, but he can’t help missing his mother who disappeared without explanation five years earlier. His mother used to read him fairy tales before bed, and while technically he is too old for them, he keeps the book close by to remind him of her. One weekend, while on a camping trip with his father and his friends, he hears a call for help coming from inside a large cave on the side of a cliff. This presents Billy with a difficult choice. He knows that by entering the cave he’s disobeying his father, but he can’t ignore the urgency of the cries.
The world that author Alan Sproles has created is colorful and imaginative, and young readers will enjoy the host of magical creatures including a pixie who can turn invisible, a talking dragon and a spell-weaving droll named Sparkie. Drawing on fairy tale tropes, before Billy can go home, he must complete a quest. The Wishmaker (a genie) tells him that he must defeat an evil witch who has turned their queen into a dragon. The quest is difficult, but with the aid of his new friends Hansel and Gretel and his knowledge of fairy tales, he’s able to complete the quest.
The narrative is straightforward and easy to follow, and incorporates themes of self-reliance, courage, cooperation, and creative thinking. The author also touches on a common conflict for children which is doing something wrong for noble reasons. The author’s use of third person present tense is awkward, and takes away from the flow of the story. The author also misses on vocabulary, at times using language that is too formal and difficult for emerging readers.
The story is well-paced, and there are a few twists that will surprise readers. Kids will also enjoy the references to familiar fairy tales, and the little details that add color to the world. The book doesn’t cover anything that hasn’t been done before, but it is an overall enjoyable story with an open ending that sets the stage for a sequel. Fairy tale-loving kids graduating from series such as Magic Tree House will enjoy this story of teamwork, magic and friendship.