Welcome, for the fifth time, to the dragon-obsessed world of Chris d’Lacey. Fans of the four previous volumes in his ‘Fire’ sequence will be happy to renew their acquaintanceship with Liz Pennykettle, potter and creator of model sentient dragons, and the remaining assorted denizens – not to mention a cat called Pennington – of her eccentric household in ‘a leafy little town called Scrubbley’. But the most important denizens are what 16-year-old Lucy Pennykettle calls ‘a bunch of special dragons’, her mother’s clay fabrications, and the most important element of the narrative focuses on the manner in which human and non-human interests commingle and collide: when the interests of human and non-human conflict, which will win out? Still occupying a central role is traveller and writer David Rain, now back in the Scrubbley abode after his five Arctic years but soon to embark on another dramatic errand to save the universe: he becomes the pivot around which d’Lacey plays some teasing postmodernist tricks involving speculation about the relationship between the world of life and the world of fiction. It all amounts to a demanding read, particularly for those not familiar with the previous books: there are, certainly, moments of high tension and excitement but a noticeable number of longueurs – and some repetition – also. Undoubtedly, though, d’Lacey’s work is highly inventive and, in its ecological dimension, clearly well-intentioned and thought-provoking. A sixth volume is promised.
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