Wednesday 3 August 2022

Book Review (Blog Tour) | Alliana, Girl of Dragons by Julie Abe

Publication Date: 2nd August 2022 by Little, Brown
Format: Netgalley ARC
Target Audience: Middle Grade
Genre: Fantasy

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Once upon a time, Alliana believed in dreams and fairy tales as sweet as spun-sugar clouds. Alliana wished on shooting stars, sure that someday she and her grandmother would be able to travel to the capital city to see the queen. Then her grandmother passed away—and those dreams disappeared in a disenchanted puff.
Now Alliana’s forced to attend to the whims of her wicked stepmother—with long days of cleaning her stepfamily’s inn as her skin burns raw or staying up until the crack of dawn to embroider her stepsister’s ball gowns. Until she meets two beings who change her life forever—the first is a young nightdragon who Alliana discovers she can magically talk to. And the second is Nela, a young witch.

Nela needs Alliana’s help navigating the mysterious abyss, filled with dangerous beasts, a place Alliana knows by heart. Alliana sees Nela’s request as a chance to break free of her stepmother’s shadow and to seize a chance at a life she’s barely dared to hope for—but there’s a risk. If caught, Alliana will be stuck working for her stepmother for the rest of her life. Can Alliana truly make wisps of dreams into her own, better-than-a-fairy-tale happily ever after?


My Thoughts

"I am more than a girl of dust. I am not going to be forgotten. This is not where my story ends."

Alliana, Girl of Dragons wasn't initially on my radar but Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch has been on my to-buy list for a while so when I saw this tour was happening, I definitely wanted to get myself on it. This book is a middle grade, Japanese Cinderella retelling with a fantasy twist. Alliana is trapped working for her stepmother in the family inn to pay off her so called debts but dreams of escaping her stifling town for a better life somewhere else. By making friends with a nightdragon and a witch, she begins to see she is more then just a simple servant and instead may hold the key to keeping her land safe. 

This was an incredibly charming fairy tale inspired story. I didn't initially know it was based on a version of Cinderella so this was extra points as I love anything fairy tale related. I loved Alliana's character, she had so much resilience and kindness to her and she always strived to do the right thing especially when it came to putting others ahead of herself. I enjoyed reading about the burgeoning friendship between Alliana and Nela, the novice witch. I thought their bond was really sweet and it was clear they'd found a true friend in each other. 

Julie Abe's writing is lovely. It's perfect for a middle grade audience as it's an easy read but still beautifully descriptive. I liked the delves into Japanese culture with mentions of different food and customs. I particularly liked the tapestries that are woven by Alliana and her grandmother and the stories that are told through them. 

The story mainly centers around Alliana and her endless chores and her desperation to leave her step-family until she becomes entangled with the abyss near her home, home to dragons and other creatures. Considering that dragons feature in the title, I really did want them to be a much bigger part of the story and feature more overall. Alliana befriends a hatchling she calls Kabo and it's cute to see how they've come to consider each other family and the lengths they go to protect each other. I just don't feel like we got much of them bonding or even really spending any time together due to time jumps. 

I also felt like the characters of the stepmother and stepsiblings was overdone a bit much. It felt like the author was trying to make them as awful as possible to build sympathy for Alliana but in the end it was overkill and too stereotypical. It played too much into the tale of Cinderella at times where it perhaps wasn't needed and therefore the fantasy elements got a bit lost. 

Overall, I enjoyed reading it and it was definitely a fun, magical time. I just needed less chores and more dragons. I'm definitely going to be picking up the Eva Evergreen books in the future as well as checking out Julie Abe's YA debut. 

Julie Abe is the author of the EVA EVERGREEN, SEMI-MAGICAL WITCH middle grade fantasy series; the middle grade fantasy ALLIANA, GIRL OF DRAGONS; and the young adult novel THE CHARMED LIST. She has lived in Silicon Valley, spent many humid summers in Japan, and currently basks in the sunshine of Southern California with never enough books or tea, where she creates stories about magical adventures.

I received an ARC copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Any quotes included in this review are subject to change. Massive thank you to Little, Brown for providing me with a review copy. A huge thank you to TBR and Beyond Tours for letting me take part in the blog tour. 

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