The time of the Dragon has come to an end. The time of man is only beginning.
And the Dragon Forest remains.
So ends the Prologue to The Dragon Forest, a new slightly-Tolkienesque juvenile fantasy adventure that may appeal to older lovers of the genre, too. Written by Ruth Douthitt, a self-described “Christian, wife, mother, artist, teacher,” the tale could potentially evolve into a series children can grow up with—such as J K Rowling’s Harry Potter.
That potential is not all she has in common with Rowling. I am told that Douthitt was advised to use her initials on the cover rather than using her first name and revealing her gender. Rowling reportedly used “J K” instead of “Joanne” on her books because her publishers felt a book written by a woman would not appeal to the target audience of young boys. Although the name “Ruth A. Douthlitt” appears on the book cover on the Dragon Forest Facebook page, copies are now being released with the author listed as “R. A. Douthitt.”
Although Douthitt shares Rowling’s creativity and imagination, her writing style is not to the same level. The author of The Dragon Forest tends to ramble, especially at the beginning of the book, and she occasionally uses terms which do not seem to match the idea she is trying to convey. In an email conversation with her, Douhtitt admitted the book could use some more editing, but she said the deadline from her publisher and other factors kept her from making all the changes needed. A revised edition could be in the offing.
Although these issues were a bit annoying, the vivid imagery and story line kept me plowing through the book. Like all good fiction writers, she is able to draw the reader into the story, allowing you to “see” her world and making you want to know what happens next. About a third of the way in, Douthitt hit her stride, and I found myself running beside her, eager for more.
The spiritual nature of the book is a bit subtle, but some of the themes will be obvious to many Christians who read it. A Messianic figure, discovered early in the story by the protagonist and young Prince, Peter, develops a relationship with the Prince that parallels in many ways the relationship of the Christian and Jesus Christ. Few now believe this figure exists, except in legend and myth, and even Peter has occasional doubts that he has actually seen him. But his faith, and his ability to see what others do not, continue to grow as the story unfolds.
The Dragon Forest is also a “coming of age” novel. Peter and his young friends have some growing up to do in a hurry as the great battle, fueled by the evil magic of Lord Bedlam, begins. They must make decisions which the adults in their world may not understand at first, much like the decisions Harry Potter and his friends had to make. There is a tension between obeying authority and doing what you know is right—something with which every young person must struggle.
Another theme of the tale is the relationship of the mentor and the apprentice. Peter is trained by the aptly-named Theodore (“Theo” for short), who is charged with teaching him the secrets of the kingdom from its hidden library until he is ready to be trained as a knight. During this training, Theo tells Peter near the conclusion of the book (p. 271), “all magic is wicked… all the magic I have seen, that is.”
Whatever the ramifications of Theo’s statement for Peter’s future, it does seem to be another difference between Harry Potter and The Dragon Forest. In the first book, Potter found out he had the ability to use magic. That was a good thing, but Harry also had to learn to resist and oppose evil magic. For Peter, all the magic he has experienced is evil. In the promised sequel (now being written), will he experience a magic which is not evil?
I am eager to find out.