“Dragonhaven,” by Robin McKinley is a science fiction fantasy about a boy who lives in a dragon refuge.
Jake has grown up at the Makepeace Institute of Integrated Dragon Studies, where his father works as a dragon researcher. The Institute is built in Smokehill National Park, one of the last remaining dragon refuges in the world. It is estimated that about 200 dragons still live at the National Park, but no one ever sees them, because they stay away from the Institute and the tourists that flock to Smokehill National Park, eager to see a one of these endangered legendary beast.
Smokehill National Park is surrounded with controversy. Some say that the dragons are dangerous beasts that ought to be exterminated, and definitely not kept alive using tax payer money. Others however argue that dragons usually just eat animals, and that their small numbers indicate that they should be protected.
Jake is familiar to these issues, and he's well aware of the precarious situation that the Institute is in. Ever since its creation the researchers and rangers who work at Smokehill National Park have been under payed and under funded. Little does Jake realize though, but he is soon to be right at the center of the struggle over the dragons.
On Jake's first overnight solo in the wild and dangerous interior of Smokehill National Park he discovers a wounded dragon and the poacher that she just killed. Jake knows that even though it is obvious that the poacher attacked first, the fact that the dragon killed a human is going to bolster the argument that all dragons should be destroyed.
But in the middle of this terrible scene is something that Jake is even more worried about: the dragon is mother that had just given birth, and one of the babies is still alive.
“Dragonhaven” is a very well though out book. The plot is fascinating, and rich with subtle details. However, I feel that Robin McKinley chose a disappointing way to present the tale. The entire book is told using Jakes voice, from a point of view years after the entire event occurred. This in itself is not a bad thing. However, author McKinley made Jake present the story in a rambling, confused manner that takes some of the enjoyment out of the book's plot. Not only does Jake take about 40 pages of mixed rambling to get into the story, but it takes another 40 pages of epilogue for him to wind down after the bulk of the action is over. Throughout these narrative stretches Jake tends to meander from event to event in an almost painfully slow manner. From my first experience, just beginning to read “Dragonhaven” the story did not seem very promising, but it gradually got better as I got farther into the book. Therefore, I would still recommend it as an interesting book, although its presentation was a little disappointing.