A Dragonbird in the Fern: Laura Rueckert
Published on: August 3, 2021
In some regards, the story is your typical YA fantasy – there is a kingdom, a romance, and an evil plot. It is an enjoyable read and wouldn’t necessarily stand out as much, except for the fact that the author created a main character with dyslexia. But moreso it is that this fantasy novel doesn’t just have a character with dyslexia, but that it becomes a central plot point to the story. In fact, I would go as far in saying that this story would not exist if the dyslexia had been left out.
The book starts off shortly after Princess Scilla’s assassination. Scilla had been betrothed to the King of a neighboring country. She had spent many years learning the King’s language and customs, but upon her death the betrothal transfers to Princess Jiara. But unlike her sister, Jiara has always had difficulty with letters and words and reading. As a result, Jiara does not know the King’s native language. As the marriage starts with the newlyweds can only communicate through an interpreter.
If all there was to this story was a princess who had dyslexia and didn’t know the language of her new husband, it would never have left an impression on me. I would have wondered why the author bothered to tell us at all if she wasn’t going to use it. But that is not what happens here. Instead Rueckert has carefully plotted an entire story around the difficulties of learning new languages and the main character’s dyslexia.
Through Jiara and King Raffar we explore the effort and amount of time needed to learn even the basics of a language. This couple is so cute. The most memorable scenes for me are of them eating dinner and Raffar helping Jiara learn the language. Instead of immediately graduating to Shakespeare level dialogues, the two of them stick with Dr. Seuss conversations: short, simple sentences. “I like rice.” “I like sweet potatoes.” There is a lot of miming going on too to help each other understand. I suspect this couple would have been great at charades.
With A Dragonbird in the Fern, Laura Rueckert has not only created a delightful book to read, but one that is also memorable. It’s not perfect – I saw the ending/villain coming. But it is a nice read and one I can recommend if you are looking for a light-hearted YA fantasy.
Thank you Netgalley and North Star Editions for the advanced review copy and opportunity to provide an honest opinion.