I had an audiobook credit to burn, and I wanted to burn it on an indie author, so again I took to social media to find some good indie fantasy—this time in audiobook format!
The first author to respond to my social media solicitation offered me his children’s fantasy novel. And I’m not above reading below my grade level; in fact, I can still remember some of the childhood fantasy books that got me hooked on this genre, like The Wizard of Earthsea, and The Dark Is Rising.
So how does The Child Of Fire And Earth measure up to these classics from my youth? Read on to find out!
The Plot Summary (No Spoilers)
A young boy, frustrated with his little sister’s pranks and bullied by the bigger boys in town, dreams of becoming a mighty knight someday.
His dreams may just be realized when he meets a friendly dragon who offers him an apprenticeship. Together with a stammering hobgoblin, they undertake quests and study the fundamentals of magic.
Background & Exposition
Fantasy fiction is unique for how it creates new, imaginative backgrounds, and truly great fantasy authors know how to deliver that background to readers.
I realize that this is a childrens’ book and as such, the background might be a little underdeveloped. But I feel that this doesn’t give children enough reading credit. Even kids love to learn about magic and fantastic creatures and historic wizards, and even kids can appreciate consistency in these fantasy elements.
I was just a little disappointed in the elementalism mythos behind this book, because it didn’t make any consistent, logical sense. Different creatures are formed from different combinations of elements, and magic can perform all kinds of miracles, except when it can’t...
The main character, Hiw, is a fairly endearing young man. At the beginning of the book, we find that he has conflict with both his sister and some local bullies, which sets him up for a grand character arc. Unfortunately, those arcs are concluded quickly, and the major arc arrives without any real setup.
The side characters are less endearing. There’s a stammering hobgoblin who poops coins (this kind of toilet humor can only be intended for a kindergarten audience), a forgettable elf, and a stuck-up dragon.
The book was written well enough. The dialogue was a touch too realistic (the frequent stammering got on my nerves). But there were no egregious errors that ruined immersion.
I suspect that Ryerson wanted to insert some elementary-age morals into this fantasy story. Usually, fantasy (and especially childrens’ fantasy) is a great vehicle for creating black and white, good vs. evil stories.
The morality in this book is less universal, I’d suggest. The author might have wanted to teach about inclusion, but the message gets mixed up with the transgender dragon villain. The author probably wanted to teach something about non-violent conflict resolution, but the violent bullies only stop when placated with resources.
It turns into a weird lesson of there won’t be any fighting if everyone gets what they want.
Conclusion: Entertaining For Children (Of Liberal Parents)
I listened to The Child Of Fire And Earth on audiobook, and the narrator was very appropriately cast for this book. Her ability to vary her voice between children, adults, dragons, and brownies was truly talented.
If your children love fantasy, and love to read about little fairies that poop silver coins, this is the book for them. If your children really don’t understand the importance of inclusion and you want to teach them from a young age that dragons are transgender, this is the book for them.
On the other hand, if you’d like your kids to read about more realistic conflict resolution, why not let them try Mrs. MachineHead, our interactive choose-your-own narrative story for kids?
Or if you like fantasy with a solid, objective worldview and logical, well-explained magic and mythology, we have to recommend Stranger Back Home, Sparrow’s adventure into an objective fantasy world that doesn’t have the same ubiquitous racial tensions.
But regardless of my differences of opinion with this author, I enjoyed listening to this book, and I will probably take some tips from Ryerson when I write my next book for children.
Drop us a comment below if you have any favorite fantasy books from your childhood! And don’t forget to subscribe to our website for access to free content, such as downloadable bookmarks, e-books, and even audio episodes!