I grew up on the Scooby Doo cartoons, and sure, they weren’t great literature, but there were a million reasons I kept watching. I’ve never read a narrative that invoked the same response until now, but Structophis definitely has it. Sure, the novel has a bit of an over-the-top mad scramble narrative with the evil, immoral villain who “our heroes” must outwit to save the day, but it’s so much more than that.
Markus is a post-college drifter still trying to find his purpose in life. Gale is an enthusiastic overachiever who is struggling to meet the requirements for a doctorate in the veterinary study of the aptly named pizza dragon, or the Structophis gastrignae. This means she brings a concrete element to Blogette in exploring and correcting the current understanding of pizza dragon physiology and behavior. She also helps guide Markus through the steps required after imprinting.
Markus and Gale might be the main characters, excepting of course the dragon, but there is a large cast of interesting characters as well. I enjoyed the great uncle always after a big win but no so smart about it. He has big ideas and a good heart. Then there’s the babbling aunt who drives everyone, even Frau Templeton who is pure evil, crazy. She exists only on the other end of phone lines, but is vibrant and amusing.
Which brings me to the dragon named Blogette for the metal pizza stove that served as her incubation chamber. First of all, what fantasy reader hasn’t wanted a dragon friend. From Pete’s Dragon to Pern and a thousand other ways, we’ve been trained (like How to Train a Dragon ;)) to see dragons as misunderstood and wonderful, intelligent creatures. Well, Blogette is that and more. She’s an infant who is rapidly learning and understanding. We get to see her maturation process right there on the page, and with the gimmie of a dragon, it reads true in a developmental way besides being fascinating.
Blogette’s intelligence isn’t the only thing developing. The relationship between Markus and Blogette is one of the best parts of the book. It starts with Markus reluctant and annoyed that this creature (which scared him years ago) has imprinted on him. However, he’s a veterinary assistant by trade, and so not ignorant of animal behavior and needs. It says a lot for Markus that not only does he recognize Blogette is in need, but also, he goes to someone he knows has studied the pizza dragon for help. He sticks with Blogette even when she’s mainly an annoyance, accepting responsibility at least until a more appropriate substitute can be found…at first.
This might sound like a chaotic novel between the mystery of Blogette’s unusual circumstances, the chase with villains on the trail, and now a burgeoning parental relationship between a dragon and a young man, but what chaos there is suits the story. The journey Markus is on entranced me. Blogette is wonderful, frustrating, and annoying while Markus is so real with her.
Basically, it hits all the Scooby Doo notes of mystery, humor, adventure, and good friends working together. Then it adds the child growth and parental connection to offer a lovely story I heartily recommend.
P.S. I received this ARC from the author in return for an honest review.