In Review: Wings of Fire: Moon Rising

An excellent adventure set at a school for dragons where dark secrets are revealed.

Wings of Fire: Moon Rising by Tui T. Sutherland

Published by Scholastic, December 30 2014. Hardcover of 298 pages at $16.99. Intended for ages 8 and up, grades 3 – 7.

The cover: This is a beautiful illustration of Moon flying through the forest. Joy Ang did the jacket art and Phil Falco did the jacket design. I really like the use of green against her black skin and she looks amazing. She’s rendered much more realistically than I would have expected for a Scholastic book and that makes this cover an eye catcher. This would look beautiful on a poster, let alone as a book cover. Overall grade: A+

The premise: From the inside front cover, “Peace has come to Pyrrhia…for now. The war between the tribes is finally over, and now the dragonets of the prophecy have a plan for lasting peace: Jade Mountain Academy, a school that will gather dragonets from all the tribes and teach them to live together, perhaps even as friends. Moonwatcher isn’t sure how she feels about school, however. Hidden in the rainforest for most of her life, the young NightWing has an awful secret. She can read minds, and even see the future. Living in a cave with dozens of other dragons is noisy, exhausting–and dangerous. In just a few days, Moon finds herself overwhelmed by her secret powers and bombarded by strange thoughts, including those of a mysterious dragon who might be a terrible enemy. And when someone starts attacking dragons within the academy, Moon has a choice to make: Stay hidden and safe? Or risk everything to save her new friends?” This is my first time reading a book in this series, and I feel caught up with anything I may have missed. I like dragons, this seems to have a Harry Potter school setting, and the protagonist has abilities she’s keeping secret. This mix sounds fun, so I’m interested. Overall grade: A

The characters: Moonwatcher is the book’s protagonist and she’s completely revealed to readers with the story told from her point of view. She’s smart, a little shy, and definitely on guard in revealing her abilities. Through her there’s a great sense of tension on two fronts: 1, can she trust any of her new friends and, 2, who is the voice that’s communicating with her through her mind? Moon is a fun character, she’s not perfect, and she knows it, but she’s trying to do what she believes is right, even if it steps on someone else’s claws. Her self-appointed best friend is Kinkajou, a RainWing who’s an emotional mood ring of changing colors. She wants to be involved in everything and be best friends with everyone. She’s a good counter for the quiet Moon and she brings some much needed humor to serious sections. Qibli is a SandWing and he provides alternate points of view for Moon. He’s willing to help her as much as he can, though he does have some concerns with the history of the NightWings. He could be a possible love interest for the young dragon. Rounding out the main characters is the intense Winter, an IceWing. His first appearance in the book has him trying to make Moon bow to his demands. He’s a hot head, which is nice for such a frosty dragon, and intimidation is his game. He seems to be the most obvious threat in the book, though someone quickly surpasses him. Every character in this book is fun. I was enjoying the characters so much I would have been happy if the plot had taken a back seat to all just having a conversation, though they grow quickly as they encounter each new problem or revealed secret. Overall grade: A+

The settings: The Jade Academy is a series of connected caves so vast none of the characters fully explore the entire environment. There are the equivalent of dorms, for three dragons each, with a bed that matches that dragon’s personality; a vast library of scrolls that contain any information, old or new, that a dragon would need to know; classrooms where lessons are taught; and the prey center, a vast cavern where prey is brought for the dragons to feast on, be it dead or running about. The end of the book has the dragons going to a very different location outside of the academy, but that would be spoiling. For a series of caves, Tui gives each a very distinctive appearance that will stick in readers’ minds. Overall grade: A

The action: By the middle of Chapter 3 I was engrossed in what Moon encounters at the academy. The tension of attending school, separated from her mother for the first time, is enough to get young readers to feel empathy for the protagonist. Encountering other students, especially Winter, will fill readers with dread and apprehension. Each time the mysterious voice speaks to Moon creates tension, and the reveal of who it is will make the change in font enough to create fear. Some terrible things begin to happen at the Academy and the story quickly becomes a race against time to stop similar events from happening. This book had tension on several fronts and all were effective. Overall grade: A+

The conclusion: There is no ending. The heroes are off to a new location to stop someone from doing something. I was expecting a bit more closure, but if the follow-up novel, Winter Turning, is as good, I’ll be happy. Overall grade: A-

The final line: An excellent adventure set at a school for dragons where dark secrets are revealed. Highly enjoyable and it left me wanting more. Overall grade: A

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” and he’s reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.

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