Dragons Walk Among Us The Allison Lee Chronicles Book 1 by Dan Rice Genre: YA Fantasy
At times it's hard to believe what you see.
Shutterbug Allison Lee is trying to survive high school while suffering the popular girl's abuse. Her life is often abysmal, but at least her green hair is savage. Her talent for photography is recognized by the school paper and the judges of a photo contest.
While visiting her friend Joe, a homeless vet, Allison's life irrevocably changes after an attack leaves her blind. All her dreams as a photojournalist are dashed as she realizes she'll never see again. Despair sets in until she is offered an experimental procedure to restore her vision. But there are side effects, or are they hallucinations? She now sees dragons accompanying some of the people she meets. Can she trust her eyes, or has the procedure affected her more than she can see?
“Debut author Rice offers an allegorical YA fantasy novel about the transformative power of self-love. Savvy, coffee-loving teenager Allison Lee is strong beyond her years. The biracial girl faces open discrimination and also copes with her apparent abandonment by her mother, who disappeared several years ago. She’s developed a keen sense of social justice along with a skill for photography. When a mysterious stalker hits her over the head, leaving her blind, she turns to an experimental eye-surgery procedure that forever changes her view of the world. Once, Allison saw her camera as her window to the truth; now, with her naked eye, she’s able to see mythological creatures that aren’t visible to other humans and that fight to protect their way of life. Allison’s ability results in her embarking on a dangerous adventure as she discovers her own highly unusual dragon-hunting legacy. She faces mortal peril as she protects humans and other creatures from a violent, otherworldly onslaught. Along the way, she also gets in touch with her own physical and emotional resilience. Although dragons play a central role in Rice’s work, the heart of the narrative is found in simple humanity and in a celebration of differences. Throughout, characters demonstrate emotional growth as they confront their limiting beliefs about others and embrace a sense of family. The story addresses serious, socially relevant subject matter, such as discrimination, poverty, and bullying, but it’s never preachy; indeed, it has a lighthearted tone that will resonate with adolescent readers. It concludes on an affirming, heartfelt note that will leave readers thoroughly satisfied yet also curious about the future of Rice’s magical fictional world. An inspirational and socially relevant fantasy.” - Kirkus Reviews
Obscured by the surrounding shrubbery next to the base of a conifer is a blue tarp. I press my free hand against the brown bag, feeling the warmth radiating from the container of broth. Good. I’d hate for the soup to be cold.
A gust of wind pushes me sideways. From somewhere overhead comes a loud crack like the bone of some gargantuan creature snapping. A widowmaker thumps to the earth. Gasping, I nearly drop the soup and freeze in place. Overhead, the trees sway in the wind, branches creaking and groaning. I scamper toward the encampment.
About half a dozen tents surround the base of the tall conifer. A wide man with hunched shoulders moves around the camp. I smile. It’s Joe.
I’m about to call out to him when I smell a strange mixture of eucalyptus and menthol and sweat on the wind. It’s the kind of odor I’d expect to roll off guys at a crowded dance club. I scan my surroundings for the source of the scent.
A figure stands behind me in the gloom.
“What are you doing?” I ask.
The stalker strides toward me, raising something about a foot long overhead. A club?
My muscles tense like springs under immense pressure. Dad warned me about attacks on campus. I back away, a scream rising up my throat. The club whirls through the air too fast to avoid.
Dan has wanted to write novels since first reading Frank Herbert's Dune at the age of eleven. A native of the Pacific Northwest, he often goes hiking with his family through mist-shrouded forests and along alpine trails with expansive views.
Dragons Walk Among Us is his debut novel. He plans to keep writing fantasy and science-fiction for many years.
Allison Lee is the protagonist of my debut YA urban fantasy, Dragons Walk Among Us, and possesses a deep-seated need for belonging. In part, her yearning is no different than anyone else's. She wants to be part of something greater than herself and be surrounded by people who accept her. These desires burn exceptionally bright in her because she has never known her mother, who she believes abandoned her at birth. Allison's need for acceptance hits overdrive when she starts seeing or, perhaps, in reality, hallucinating dragons. When her best friends make it clear they believe she is delusional, their bonds of friendship begin to crack.
Allison is a passionate photographer with dreams of becoming a photojournalist. Her pictures of high school sporting events around Seattle are published weekly in her school's online newspaper. She combines her love of photography with civic-mindedness, often documenting climate marches and social justice issues. When an unprovoked attack leaves her blind, Allison feels like her life has been flushed down the toilet and fears she will never photograph again.
I'm a big believer in the adage to write what you know. It allows me to inject verisimilitude into the story. For example, Allison is an avid photographer, often out and about with her camera in hand. Details on composition and exposure for different situations are sprinkled throughout the narrative. These details are accurate because I'm a shutterbug. I think these details are just enough to characterize Allison Lee, be interesting to readers, and add a sense of realism to a story that is, after all, a fantasy.
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