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Review: Timothy and the Dragons Gate by Adrienne Kress

timothy and the dragons gate adrienne kress Review: Timothy and the Dragons Gate by Adrienne Kress

Eleven-year-old Timothy Freshwater is anything but a breath of fresh air. With his unfettered cynicism and oh-so-winsome catchphrase of whatever, its no surprise that teachers, parents, and perhaps a sock or two quake in their boots at the very thought of dealing with this snotty little chap. With Timothy having a tongue so sharp it could cut through a block of cement, its no surprise that his mother lives far away in a veritable world of make-believe, his father has thrown himself into his job much like an Olympic diver would a swimming pool, and, as of today, Timothy has been expelled from every school in the city.

Which raises some problems. What exactly does one do with a bratty eleven-year-old who has heretofore been fairly safely ensconced in a classroom? Homeschooling is out of the question, and even Mary Poppins would agree that no amount of sugar would help here. Timothys father quickly works out that the obvious, or perhaps most pragmatic, solution is to bring young Timothy along to work with him. Brash young Timothy makes quite the splash, and its not long before hes taken under the sweaty wing of fridge magnate Evans Bore, who is an unfortunate case of nominative determinism if ever there is one. The only thing about Bore that is not as dull as Timothys wit is sharp is the fact that the gold key he wears around his neck represents his mastery over a'little man known as Mr Shen who, despite his unprepossessing ways, happens to be a dragon. A dragon who is cursed to live out a life of servitude in human form, and thus doesnt really seem to epitomise dragonness, but still. 'Timothy, being the quick study that he is, manages to coax Bore into handing over the key, and in doing so becomes the new master of Mr Shen.

But unfortunately, ownership of dragon isnt all about piles of gold and glorious flights through the air with the theme tune of the Never Ending Story playing in the background. There are far more serious consequences to worry about, such as ninjas. And pirates. And possessed black cabs a la Stephen King. Oh, and the upcoming Chinese New Year, which admittedly isnt quite as dangerous (gunpowder and fireworks aside), but which represents a major turning point for Mr Shen, who in order to be freed from servitude must pass beneath the Dragons Gate, situated in some unknown province in China, before the celebrations draw to a close.

Timothy and Mr Shen take, admittedly, a rather circuitous route to China, travelling there via sewers, trucks, private jets, and pirate ships. But while travel by pirate ship is probably neither the most efficient nor safe way to travel around Asian waters, its certainly up there with the most entertaining. Timothy, having been ejected unceremoniously from the afore-mentioned private jet by the no-nonsense Emily the Ninja, finds himself flailing in the ocean before being hauled out by a youth of rather androgynous appearancenone other than the fabulous Alex from Kresss debut novel Alex and the Ironic Gentleman (our review here). With the gutsy Alex leading the way, Timothy finds himself drawn into all manner of new adventures as they do all they can to return Mr Shen to his natural dragony state.

Timothy and the Dragons Gate is a competent addition to Kresss oevre, although I have to admit that it didnt endear me quite as much as did her debut. This has little to do with Kresss skills as a writer, which once again are proudly on display hereshe plots and quips and twists and turns with the best of em, and its hard to go past her narrative style, which hovers somewhere between twee, bawdy, and self-deprecatingly sniffy. Rather, its her choice of a leading character who initially has so very little to redeem him. Its a challenge enough not to glare at my little brother when he breaks out the oh-so-ubiquitous whatever, and being asked to empathise with someone of similar personality to whom Im not related by bloodwell, thats a considerable ask. However, there is more than enough humour infused in the pages of this book to keep a reader chugging along until we meet Alex, who is such a pleasant and spunky lass that its rather difficult to feel anything but love for her. Moreover, Timothys chilly little heart does show some evidence of thawing as we progress through the narrative (perhaps this is to do with his ever-increasing distance from the fridge magnate Evans Bore?), and his eventual efforts to redeem himself do help endear the reader somewhat.

A large portion of the book is set in China, or deals with Chinese characters, and Kress writes about both comfortably and in a way that highlights and problematises particular Western assumptions and stereotypes whilst never falling into a didactic or moralist trap. I applaud her for writing a Chinese-style dragon rather than a Western-style dragon into the story, and for her pointed reminders about language, culture, and custom.

While Timothy and the Dragons Gate is the slightly less sparkling younger sibling to the overachieving, university-bound'Alex and the Ironic Gentleman, theres a good deal here to like, and I find myself eagerly awaiting Kresss next offering.

200px 3.5 stars.svg  Review: Timothy and the Dragons Gate by Adrienne Kress

Purchase Timothy and the Dragons Gate

See our review of Alex and the Ironic Gentleman

With thanks to Simple Schooling for the review copy

Also by Adrienne Kress:

alex and the ironic gentleman adrienne kress Review: Timothy and the Dragons Gate by Adrienne Kress

Alex and the Ironic Gentleman

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  1. Truly, Timothy was not the most likable characterand this put me off the book more than somewhat. And I hadnt read Alex yet, and so her sudden appearance in this book took me abackI think it probably makes this book a lot more enjoyable to have read the first book first!

    • Steph /

      The book definitely picked up for me when Alex appeared. She tempers Timothys personality so well, and I think the second half of the book is a lot more balanced because of it. Its interesting how much difference the personality of the protagonist can make to a novel.

      I have noticed that there seem to be a lot of super-smart, painfully self-aware and bratty kids in MG recentlyHermiones without the nice bits!

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