Anya and the Dragon

Written by Sofiya Pasternack
Review by J. Lynn Else

Despite the tsar’s ban, magic encompasses every aspect of Anya’s life. Water magic, plant magic, animal magic, even fool magic. Problem is, Anya is the only one in her family who can’t pull the magic threads. When the town magistrate threatens to take their land and throw her mother in prison, Anya will do whatever it takes to help, including hunt the last-known dragon in 10th-century Kievan Rus’. She’s not the only one looking, though. A strange man arrives in town and threatens everyone she cares about. When the mysterious dragon shows up and saves Anya’s life, she will be faced with a difficult choice: her family’s safety or the dragon’s life?

Anya is an enjoyable narrator who is a determined, spunky young girl with lots of heart. Her choices and reasonings are appropriate for her age and the period, lending a youthful charm to the narration. Additionally, Anya is surrounded by a variety of enjoyable and engaging characters. The landscape is enchantingly detailed with living folklore ranging from domovoi to rusalka to bogaryr while also maintaining a strong pastoral expression. Anya’s assumptions are challenged in meaningful ways dealing with topics of prejudice, faith, perception, and greed. Being able to experience Anya’s quest and its challenges with a non-magical main character is the perfect way to draw young readers into the story. As one character says, “The greatest magic in the world is an open mind.” The combination of sweet characters, enduring relationships, strong faith, and a spellbinding adventure conjures up an irresistible tale readers of all ages will enjoy. Recommended.