Review: Dragon’s Bait by Vivian Vande Velde

Title: Dragon’s Bait

Author: Vivian Vande Velde

Publishing Information: September 1, 1992 by HMH Books for Young Readers

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Dragons, Romance

Series information: Standalone

Format: Paperback, 196 pages

Source: Bought for my personal collection

Recommended For: Fans of dragons of any kind, Patricia C. Wrede, and uppity women

Let me tell you a little story about this novel…I was on one of my monthly trips to The Book Barn and I thought I had hit the jackpot when I found the entire Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede for a very low price. As I was checking out, the cashier said to me “Oh, you like Patricia C. Wrede? You should try this book, it’s a similar read,” and she handed me Dragon’s Bait by Vivian Vande Velde. I was skeptical. I try not to be, but..well, I am a librarian and I tend to get a bit of a chip on my shoulder when people offer me readalike suggestions. This is what I DO for a living, people. I took the book from her hand and read the first line,

Fifteen-year-old Alys is not a witch. But that doesn’t matter–the villagers think she is and have staked her out on a hillside as a sacrifice to the local dragon. It’s late, it’s cold, and it’s raining, and Alys can think of only one thing–revenge. But first she’s got to escape, and even if she does, how can one girl possibly take on an entire town alone? Then the dragon arrives–a dragon that could quite possibly be the perfect ally. . . .”

Now there really isn’t much more that you could put in that first line to hook me…”Alys,” Hi my name is AlysSA. “Staked out to be sacrificed to the local dragon,” I WANT A LOCAL DRAGON. “REVENGE,” HAVE YOU MET ME?! PERFECT ALLY IS SAID DRAGON?! SIGN ME UP RIGHT NOW. I snatched the book up quickly with an indifferent “Thanks..” despite laughing maniacally on the inside.

So the book review, right, let’s get to it…

Dragon’s Bait reminded me what it was like reading some of my all time favorite books for the first time. The plot was simplistic and it was a quick read, in fact I read it in one sitting and felt refreshed after its completion. I like Alys a lot, I found her to be strong, but believable in her feelings and actions. She has a hard time coming to terms with the fact that it is only maidens that are sacrificed, and that certain men are able to swoop in and take control of her life because she is a woman. She questions, loves deeply, and keeps promises; I like that in my heroines.  I liked Selendrile, I especially liked him when he was talking about revenge,

“That’s very kind of you,” she said bitterly, for she no longer believed in kindness. “And you’re willing to do this…why? Because you’re fond of helping others?”

“I’m fond of revenge,” the dragon answered.

Sign me up.

I am a little torn in a way because on the whole, I really enjoyed Dragon’s Bait. It was a story about a strong heroine, and a DRAGON, how could I not love it? However I didn’t entirely love the ending and the way that Alys did a bit of a character change in the way that she gave up her vengeful thoughts and decided to take the blame for basically ALL OF THE THINGS. Sigh. I suppose I can understand how she has MORALS and realizes that revenge is not nice, but to give up completely just seems a bit weak. C’mon Alys, pull yourself together! Then there is the romance…I was totally on board for that. I mean, he’s a dragon, who is also a man. A dragon-man, if you will. How can you resist, amiright? Alys does a pretty good job, though. I mean, Selendrile isn’t really the NICEST guy (I obvs love him) and he broods a lot (*fans self*) but he is also kind of demeaning, and I don’t really have time for that sort of thing. So when things get all sorted out in the village, Alys decides to follow him into the sunset, and for once in my life, I didn’t approve. I am not saying that she shouldn’t have stayed with him, because…see above: dragon-man, but it seemed as if she was doing so just because she didn’t really have much else going for her.  So as you can see, I am conflicted. What’s a fellow uppity woman to do? Personally, I decided to take this book and not look too deeply into the parts that made my feminist and English major bits all eye twitchy. If you can take a minute and think, “I would really love to read a quick novel about a strong gal, a handsome man who is also a ruthless dragon, and their escapades,” then pick up this novel immediately. I can’t completely agree with the woman at The Book Barn, my love for Patricia C. Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles far surpasses my enjoyment of Dragon’s Bait, but it is a good pick for any lover of dragon tales.

4 thoughts on “Review: Dragon’s Bait by Vivian Vande Velde

  1. It’s been a looooong time since I picked this book up from the library. I don’t think I’d yet matured enough, back then, to fully appreciate the inherent delight of a dragon-man, though it’s a plot feature I’ve never wholly forgotten.

  2. Like that one, but I actually much prefer A Hidden Magic by her…I do agree the books are similar…ever read “Of Two Minds” another not stereotypical prince and princess book in the vein of Wrede 😉

  3. Pingback: Book Hoarders Anonymous: Best of 2013 | Books Take You Places

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