The Gift of Charms offers an interesting dragon society with a complex history revealed through internal storytelling that is key to the tale. The overall tone itself is also a storytelling voice that felt quite appropriate and gave the sense of revealing ancient truths.
The book has its weaknesses in a sometimes condescending teaching tone and some missed opportunities for less stereotypical challenges, especially during Yoshiko’s training. However, fun characters, rich world building, and the struggles of a prophesied hero where few know the tale and most are more concerned with his difference than his abilities outweigh any weak points. Those aspects might have bothered me in the beginning, but soon the story sucked me in and the few instances barely caught my attention.
While the conflicts Yoshiko faces in their form of school might be typical bullying, his status as prophesied hero is not just his life falling into the pattern of a known tale. He is physically different to suit the task ahead, but with his role unrecognized, even his parents wish him to be the same as all the other dragons. This leads to a situation where rather than being forced into a heroic role against his will, he decides to hide his abilities and try to ignore them instead of seeking out meaning within his difference.
It’s not a complex story, and the moral messages are pretty straightforward, but it’s a fun read regardless. While I love the complexity of motives and characters in my reading, there is a place for tales like this one where the main character meets his challenges straight on and perseveres as much by sheer determination as by any unique ability. Sure, his greater wingspan offers some benefits, but he’s not a natural at blowing fire or many of the other dragon abilities. He’s just focused and driven until he builds up the abilities he needs. Just because he is perfectly adapted for the role he is to play doesn’t mean he couldn’t have failed, either to train or to accept the task in the first place.
Ultimately, it’s a good read with a nice setup, and some of the missed opportunities do come into play later if in a lesser way. I can see this as a good read-aloud book with the younger crowd especially. I enjoyed my time spent in Julia Suzuki’s conceptual world. Besides, it’s dragons. Who doesn’t love dragons?
P.S. I received this title from the author in return for an honest review.