A young dragon, eager to see the world outside her family’s cave network, encounters both hot chocolate and a curse on her first day. This is just the beginning of Adventurine’s story as it weaves up and down, from friendships to traps to apprenticeships.
Everything we know about fantastical dragons is about centuries old dragons well set in their ways. It’s time for this middle grade book about a less-than-thirty-years-old dragon just discovering her passion in life.
Published: 9 February 2017
Publisher: Bloomsbury Childrens
Category: Fantasy/Middle Grade
Aventurine is the fiercest, bravest kind of dragon, and she’s ready to prove it to her family by leaving the safety of their mountain cave and capturing the most dangerous prey of all: a human.
But when the human she captures tricks her into drinking enchanted hot chocolate, she finds herself transformed into a puny human girl with tiny blunt teeth, no fire, and not one single claw. She’s still the fiercest creature in these mountains though – and now she’s found her true passion: chocolate! All she has to do is walk on two feet to the human city, find herself an apprenticeship (whatever that is) in a chocolate house (which sounds delicious), and she’ll be conquering new territory in no time … won’t she?
Wild and reckless young Aventurine will bring havoc to the human city – but what she doesn’t expect is that she’ll find real friendship there too, along with betrayal, deception, scrumptious chocolate and a startling new understanding of what it means to be a human (and a dragon).
A pinch of Ella Enchanted, a sprinkling of How to Train your Dragon and a generous helping of Eva Ibbotsen –The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart is entirely delicious.
Rating: 4 Stars
There are a lot of books about dragons, but Stephanie Burgis’s, about a young dragon who discovers her passion for chocolate, offers some new takes on these fantastical creatures that I enjoyed. There’s the dynamic of a dragon family, the growth pattern of young dragons, and a lot more that comes from the challenges Adventurine faces once she’s cursed into the form of a dragon’s greatest enemy: a human.
The beginning of the book is a little difficult to get over, a hump if you will, owing in part to the tone of Adventurine’s voice. There’s a cringey quality to the way her lines are delivered and her petulant attitude can get on your nerves, but if you stick with it, there’s a fun story waiting a little ways in.
Adventurine encounters a lot of dastardly characters while on her adventure into the world outside her cave. Eager to prove that she’s ready for it, she leaves through a secret tunnel and immediately runs into a strange human: the food mage that curses her into a girl. There is a good side effect though! She discovers her passion, the thing a dragon loves almost as much as gold and their family: for her, it’s chocolate!
In pursuit of learning more about chocolate, she encounters a noble lady who tries to make her an unpaid maid, a mayor’s assistant that wants to take down the chocolate shop she apprentices herself to, and then the most difficult of all: self doubt. While the outside forces she deals with are aplenty, figuring out who she is now that she is no longer a dragon makes things even more complicated for Adventurine. In handling that situation, I think the author included moments that point to anxiety, possibly even panic attacks, as well as reflections on what self identity is and how important it is to remain true to yourself, whatever that means. In this case, Adventurine never loses her dragon-ness, her fire and nerve, whatever slip ups occur as she adjust to humanity.
There’s quite a lot of humor in The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart. I found myself highlighting a lot of quotes because Adventurine had quite the sarcastic wit, as did her new boss, Marina, owner of The Chocolate Heart. Marina was just the right person for Adventurine to run into because she has a similar personality: strong, willful, as well as some of the same doubts. There’s sharing later on that explains this, but even before that there’s the apprenticeship where Adventurine learns about chocolate as well as tips that could apply to all food: how to identify flavors, how to savor, to appreciate. Marina having her sample different concoctions is like a game and skill cultivation all at once.
There are clues throughout the story that weave a subtle thread toward the end that I thought was quite neat. I wonder how many readers will pick up on it? Even if it isn’t especially prominent, the revelation at the end and the lives that it touches make for a cool finale and the possibility of further adventures. There were some aspects of the story that I don’t think were resolved or dealt with enough, but as I said, the ending leaves the possibility for further adventures. Perhaps Adventurine will return and we’ll see more of her and her family, human and dragon alike, in the future.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.