by Silvana de Mari
Sometimes you come across a kid\’s book by chance that happens to be pretty good. I found this one at a thrift shop. It\’s a story of a quest in a dark, miserable world where it always seems to be raining. People in this world despise and fear elves, and all the elves have been forced into camps or slain. One young elf escapes when his camp is flooded, is helped by a man and woman who pity him- in spite of their many misunderstandings due to language differences and the little elf\’s naievety. The elf realizes he is the last of his kind and is in despair until he reads a prophecy written on the wall- foretelling that the last elf and the last dragon together can bring about a great change. Determined to fulfill the prophecy, he starts searching for a dragon, but what he finds isn\’t at all what he expected.
A lot of things in this book turn out not to be what others expected, and that\’s part of the fun of it. It\’s got one of the most original concepts of dragons that I\’ve ever read. When the elf first meets the dragon I was dismayed at what an inane, whiny cowering beast it was, but turns out there\’s a good reason for that and soon you find in the story that dragons can be insufferably proud, sarcastic and full of wisdom as well. So- I don\’t want to tell too much about the story but it has a lot going on, much of it subtle. There are adventures and narrow escapes. A little bit of a love story. An isolated library stuffed with all the knowledge of the world, that might just get burnt up by an infant dragon that can\’t control its fire. There\’s a cruel ruler who enforces lots of suffering, children who rise up against their oppressors, people who don\’t realize their strengths until the need arises in front of them. Lots of prejudice and misconceptions on all sides- it\’s refreshing to see the various perspectives as parts of the story are told from different characters\’ viewpoints. I liked how all the little threads connected at the end, characters that didn\’t realize why they crossed paths but it turns out all to a purpose. It kept me intent because quite a few things happened that I didn\’t see coming at all. And it made me laugh any number of times.
It\’s translated from the Italian. The original title was The Last Elf.
Rating: 3/5 361 pages, 2004