Reviewed by Allison Fraclose for TeensReadToo.com
For his entire life, Jacob Mendoza has lived in Smokehill National Park, one of the last and largest wildlife preserves for Draco australiensis in the world. His father, who heads the Institute dedicated to the study of the endangered dragons, has kept a tight leash on him since Jacob's mother died while on sabbatical a few years ago. Finally, though, Jacob's father has agreed to let him finally go on his first solo overnight stay deep in the park.
Although not as excited as he probably would have been about it before his mother's death, Jacob hikes out on his own, determined to cover some good ground before he has to meet up with the head Ranger the following morning. However, his plans for doing so are cut short when he comes across a horrific site.
A wounded mother dragon who has just given birth lies next to the remains of the poacher who presumably attacked her. Jacob creeps up to the massive creature and finds himself drowning in her eyes before she dies, leaving him with strange sensations of anger, despair, and hope swirling inside him. Stunned and crying, he begins to stumble away, passing by her babies who are now scattered on the ground...and he notices that one is still alive.
Instinct takes over, and Jacob now finds himself a surrogate mother for a creature that nobody knows how to raise. What's worse is that, now that a dragon has killed a human, all of Smokehill may be gravely in danger, for, not only is it against the law to kill a dragon, but it is also against the law to save one's life.
Although I enjoyed watching the bonding of Jacob and his foundling, and the descriptions of some of these otherworldly sensations impressed me, I found this book very difficult to read. Jacob as narrator tends to ramble a lot, and he "speaks" in an extremely informal manner. However, some readers may find this style more appealing and easier to understand than traditional narration. The idea of a dragon preserve is nevertheless an appealing one, and I think that any fans of dragons may find this story fascinating if for that reason only.