The Dragon’s Tooth
(Ashtown Burials #1)
N. D. Wilson
Random House

I was delighted to get a copy of The Drowned Vault (Ashtown Burials #2) as an Advance Reader Copy, but this meant I needed to read the first book, The Dragon’s Tooth, post haste. Which I did (thank you, public library, for coming through for me once again!). I thoroughly enjoyed Wilson’s 100 Cupboards trilogy and Leepike Ridge, so I knew I’d enjoy his latest series-in-progress. And I was correct.

Wilson’s works are quite complex and robust, descriptions that I, alas, can’t use with very much contemporary literature–particularly those geared to the middle grades age group. He has been steeped in classical literature and is widely read by almost any standard. Leepike Ridge was the Odyssey rewritten (ah, now you see it, don’t you? ☺The Cyclops should have been a major clue). Ashtown Burials is bringing in The Epic of Gilgamesh along with a host of other allusions, tropes, and literary devices–as well as Wilson’s usual intensity.

So, what do you get? Indiana Jones (there’s even a prominent snake plus super duper villains and crazy old relics) + National Treasure (secret societies that span history/continents and invest the aforementioned relics with deep power/meaning) + Treasure Island (that rascal Long John Silver has a literary descendant in this book) + The Epic of Gilgamesh (‘member the thief?) + classic questing fantasy (unlikely hero thrust into quest to defeat intensely evil bad guy; hero is in possession of magical talismans that wield their own power and hero must learn to use the talisman, protect it, and save the day despite terrible odds)…..

I won’t tell you much more except to note that this series starts off with more intensity than 100 Cupboards did. This series “feels” older to me, involves guns and truly creepy bad guys from the get go, and is a bit more sinister. None of these are at level that makes me hesitant to recommend it–but it’s worth noting if you have, say, a third grader who enjoyed the first series. You might want to wait a couple of years before beginning this.

Recommended for middle grades and up; check out the book trailer!

Things to Note/Discuss

  • Bad guys are BAD in this book. And some good guys are really great. But there are a lot of middle of the road characters that can go either way. And some “good guys” that come across as a bit sketchy. And some bad guys that at first look awfully nice… Worth discussing on a number of levels. Who looks at the heart? Who can we trust? How do we decide who to trust?
  • The cover makes this hero (Cyrus) look pretty pasty, in my opinion. Didn’t they READ the book? Cyrus and his sister Antigone are biracial (South American mom and white American dad) and this becomes a significant issue for them once they arrive in Ashtown.
  • Is it easy to do the right thing? What sorts of callings do we have in our lives? Cyrus was clearly called to bear the dragon’s tooth by Skelton; how are we called by the Lord to live/move in the world?
  • Janie Cheaney from Redeemed Reader compares Ashtown to the church. Worth noting.
  • My friend Brandy also brings up some great discussion points in her review; scroll down to that last paragraph in particular.

Cover image from goodreads; book from local library.