When a spoilt king offers a roomful of gold to anyone who can bring him a mysterious singing ‘moon dragon’, a beautiful little girl, Alina, takes up the challenge. This red haired child is poor and wild, living alone at the bottom of the mountains, but she knows about moon dragons from stories her grandmother used to tell her. Climbing the mountains, Alina finally hears a sound besides the sighing of the branches and the whispering of the leaves. Then ‘her heart beat with the singing of the dragons, her breath flowed with the rhythm of their wings’ as she witnesses the mystery: ‘Below was a dance of dragons, shining pearl and silver in the soft lunar light.’ (‘dance’ here used most originally as a collective noun).
This becoming at one with a mystical creature is a familiar theme of Dyan Sheldon and she does it so well we’re glad to see it again. Indeed, the teaming of Dyan Sheldon with Gary Blythe is a welcome event, no matter how long it’s been since The Whales’ Song. Blythe’s soft edge, dramatic, yet realistically-seen paintings are peopled with utterly individual characters, while his clever use of scale and cut-off points roots the story in fantasy. Coupled with Sheldon’s lyrical telling of a good story, they together create something magical.
This book is as wondrous as The Whales’ Song, my only criticism being it needed another spread before the finale to give the full impact to Alina’s unselfish preference of her silver scale over a roomful of gold. Nonetheless, a book to be cherished.