This magical, dark and complex book was also a gift. It came in a bag of books from a friend that I promised to take to the charity shop (I will at some point!) and it called to me from the bag like a jewel in the (Beast Quest and Goosebumps) rough.
It is told from the viewpoint of fourteen-year-old Evie, who after four years is finally able to tell her adoptive parents about the shattered ribs she has kept secret. The story begins as she wakes up from the anesthetic after the operation to fix them and her surgeon presents her with the chunk of shattered rib that they could not fix.
Her Uncle Ben then suggests that she carve her bone into a pet, a talisman of sorts and Evie chooses a Dragon thinking “if I had a Dragon I would never be powerless again” and this is where the novel really takes flight.
When the Dragon is finished it comes to life. As carved bone, “the Dragon is pinkish but, when fleshed out, becomes the blue-white of moonlight” And Evie goes on a spiritual and psychological journey with her Dragon through night-time adventures on the Fens, to try to heal the scars that can’t be seen. Such a simple metaphorical conceit, (finding the dragon inside to find your strength) in the hands of a less accomplished writer, could have dragged the narrative into cloying self-help territory. But the poetry of the prose and the complexity of the narration makes for soul-searching, if not soul searing, stuff.
The whole story is wonderful and difficult in equal measure. I loved it unreservedly til the ending which I struggled with. I shan’t go into details as you should really read this book, but I felt both somehow denied and relieved and horrified all combined. But that is kind of the point of the book. It plays with reality and with our hopes continually, forcing you to question many things, like childhood, and love and safety and revenge, that we may think are straightforward.
It is not an easy book about a very uneasy unsubjects but the prose is beautiful and the characterisation and presentation of PTSD is flawless. Moreover, even though our narrator is unreliable she is wholly believable.
In short: the tale that Casale weaves is dark and unpredictable and breathtaking, like the dark moonlit landscape of Evie’s adventures and as intricately carved as Evie’s Dragon.