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Dragonspell    by Donita K. Paul order for
by Donita K. Paul
Order:  USA  Can
WaterBrook Press, 2004 (2004)
* *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

One of the most popular fantasy series to come along in decades - J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter - struck a sour note with a few Christian fundamentalist groups, ending up on their lists of banned books. While religious groups have praised some fantasies (a local religious newspaper said that The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King was a movie not to be missed), they have misunderstood many, and even considered some sacrilegious.

Donita K. Paul's Dragonspell brings fantasy back into the Christian reading world with a story that non-Christians can also enjoy (a feat that has not been accomplished since C. S. Lewis's allegorical Chronicles of Narnia). This book tells the tale of slave girl Kale Allerion, who is sent into the service of Paladin, a wise and well-loved ruler. When the leaders of Kale's village discover her aptitude for inadvertently finding dragon eggs, they ship her off to the Hall of Paladin, who is in need of such talents to find a rare dragon that has fallen into the hands of an evil wizard. Kale joins members of the other six high races (those created by supreme being Wulder) in search of one of the great wizards who can help them defeat Risto and recover the egg. Along the way, Kale learns much about camaraderie and faith.

On the surface, Paul's novel is an epic fantasy in the style that Tolkien made famous. Kale, a young girl who knows very little about anything outside her village, must undertake a long and arduous journey with unfamiliar companions to save her world from evil. Along the way, she encounters many seemingly insurmountable obstacles that are overcome with the help of her companions. In the end, though, it is solely up to Kale to fight her own internal battle in order to save her friends and her world. But Dragonspell has a deeper and more spiritual level. Wulder created Kale's world, helps those who believe in him, and made Paladin his voice. Those who strive for good follow Paladin's teachings and put their life in Wulder's hands. Wulder also has an opposite, Pretender, who created evil by trying to be Wulder. Those who see no need for Wulder fall into Pretender's clutches, in a classic battle of good versus evil.

While the tale has deeply Christian undertones, they simply add to the enjoyment of a story whose allegorical nature appeals to all ages. Younger readers will appreciate it simply for the thrill of the adventure, while older readers will also contemplate its deeper meanings.

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