The Dragons of Ordinary Farm by Tad Williams and Deborah Beale

The Dragons of Ordinary Farm book cover
Rating 7.1/10
Could shape up to be a delightful little series.

Tyler and Lucinda have to spend summer with their Uncle Gideon, a farmer. They soon discover that Ordinary Farm is well, no ordinary farm.

The bellowing in the barn comes not from a cow but from a dragon. The thundering herd in the valley? Unicorns. Uncle Gideon's farmhouse never looks the same time. Plus, there's a flying monkey, a demon squirrel, and farmhands with strange powers.

When darker secrets surface will Lucinda and Tyler be able to save the dragons, the farm – and themselves?

The Dragons of Ordinary Farm will always stay in my memory. It is the first book for which my first impressions didn't last.

I will be completely honest and admit that the first chapters did not work for me at all. I found little that was fresh or involving and the overall feel was of something that I had read before, albeit with different characters. Most conspicuous by its absence was the sense of magic that imbues the very best children's fantasy books.

And then, to drive what I thought would be the final nail in the coffin, came this show-stopping sentence:

“The compartment was fairly full, mostly with people in clothes that didn't quite fit or who looked like English was their second or third language.”
The Dragons of Ordinary Farm: Chapter 2 - Flaming Cows and Window Monkeys

How can you look like English is your second or third language? Is it the colour of your skin that gives it away? Or is it dependent on the quality of your clothes?

I will clear this up straight away. I was concerned that the sentence above may be indicative of racial stereotyping of the very worse kind.  I was very pleased to discover that The Dragons of Ordinary Farm does in fact attempt to be multi-racial; although the ethic characters do sometimes lack a touch of subtlety.

And then something rather special happened.

It was somewhere between the 50th and 200th page that I really did begin to enjoy the story. My concerns over racial stereotyping vanished and the sense of magic that had been missing began to slowly appear. It was the introduction of time travel to the plot that I believe had the largest impact; the linear storyline that I was expecting was suddenly blown out of the water and replaced by one that could go anywhere it wanted to (and hopefully will do). The Ice Age, Roman times, the Dark Ages; the possibilities are endless and this really breathed life into the narrative.

When you look at the pedigree of the two authors you would be right to expect a juvenile fantasy novel that was way above the average. Tad Williams is the author of the critically acclaimed Memory, Sorrow and Thorn trilogy (1988-1993) and a stalwart of the fantasy genre. Deborah Beale was a long-time editor of books for adults and children before beginning her career as a writer.

And The Dragons of Ordinary Farm did indeed prove to be above average. After turning the 412th page I was left wanting to know more about what would happen to the now likeable characters of Tyler and Lucinda. I also wanted to know what places and times in history would be visited next. I wanted to know more about the strange creatures and peoples that inhabited Ordinary Farm itself. But more than anything I wanted to know if Uncle Gideon would be reunited with his long lost wife.

I would recommend The Dragons of Ordinary Farm to younger readers but stress that if they, like me, find the beginning a little slow and difficult to get into, don't give up - it really does get much, much better and could shape up to be a delightful little series.

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The Dragons of Ordinary Farm reader reviews

from Swansea

9-stars

I was initially surprised when I first read Dragons of Ordinary Farm as its target audience is younger than that I normally associated with Tad Williams books. This is more geared up for older children than young adults/adults but great fun all the same, regardless of age. It is a well written book which is shown most clearly when read aloud to the kids at bedtime. The book grips more and more as the story progresses and by the end I was hooked and can't wait to find out what happens in later volumes. The husband and wide team work well together. I recommend this book to ages 8+.

8.1/10 from 2 reviews

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