The Last Dragon is a beautiful book to hold. Colors are muted and layered, nothing is a single flat shade. Lighting has been carefully considered, illuminating and glowing as needed each panel. The “maiden” is an herbalist’s daughter named, Tansy. She is described as, “no color at all. She seemed to blend in with her surroundings” and the artist, Rebecca Guay, did an incredible job showing this. I also love the way Guay drew the dragon, so powerful and ferocious. It reminds me of a melding of western and eastern dragon traits.
The author, Jane Yolen, weaves a familiar fantasy tale but with slightly different elements. Dragons were thought to have been eradicated 200 years ago but one egg still slumbered, nestled deep among the roots of an ancient tree. The falling of the dead tree raises the roots, disturbing the egg, which begins to hatch. Starting small, and off in the countryside, no one knew of the dragon as it was growing.
One day Tansy is gathering raspberries along the river bank when she spots a plant she doesn’t recognize. In her eagerness to examine the plant she forgets to put her gloves on and is surprised by it immediately burning her skin. Her father, being an herbalist, recognizes the plant based on a description in old books that say it grows where dragons live. Curious, Tansy questions further. Sometimes called fireweed, others flamewort, it is considered to be dragon’s bane with the ability to burn for an hour with a flame that cannot be extinguished.
Shortly after this time, the existence of the dragon is revealed, so the villagers send a contingent to find a warrior to take care of their dragon problem. They find the handsome Lancot sharing tales of his exploits in an inn. Based on his brawn and bravado they decide he is the hero they need and convince him to come back to their village. Sensing a profit to be made, Lancot agrees but on arrival is dismayed to learn that he has been hired to kill a dragon. When queried about his interests he shares his boyhood love of flying kits.
The next day Tansy accosts Lancot as he tries to sneak away. He admits to not being a hero but Tansy assures him it’s okay that he isn’t, neither is she, but someone has to do something about the dragon. And so the two develop a plan involving a dragon kite and the fireweed. With some setbacks, they defeat the dragon and, rest assured, there is a happily ever after!
I quite enjoyed the combination of charming story and lovely artwork. This was a good find while browsing the graphic novel section of the library!