Author: Minerva Cerridwen
Publication date: September 15, 2020
Genre: fantasy, LGBTQIA+, novella
My rating: 5/5 stars
In today’s divisive society, uniqueness can become a point of shame rather than pride. The Dragon of Ynys is a perfect balm to soothe everyone and anyone who feels hurt by the lack of acceptance that is often so prevalent–it will make you smile, lift your spirits, and reaffirm your belief that there is good in the world, all in the span of roughly 100 pages. I seriously cannot adequately express how much I loved this book.
The plot is very straightforward: Sir Violet is a somewhat reluctant knight who is very happy with his place in the small village of Ynys, where his biggest challenge is constantly visiting the dragon, Snap, who lives nearby and has a penchant for stealing shiny items. But when Juniper, the baker, goes missing one day, Violet must team up with Snap, as well as Juniper’s wife, Holly, to hunt her down. And that quest launches an even bigger adventure, full of secret caves, spiders, and stories galore.
“I think I made it clear that I can’t help you. I do not know this lady. I don’t know where she was last seen, if someone might have a motive to attack her, if she could really be in danger. All I know is that I want to continue my nap.”(This is such a mood…)
I cannot begin to express how much I loved this cute, quirky fairytale. The cast is wonderfully queer: Sir Violet is an aro-ace hero, more interested in staying home with a cup of tea than winning hearts; Juniper and Holly are a proud lesbian couple; two characters are trans; and in passing dialogue, the characters offer affirmation of genderfluid, nonbinary, and bi/pan identities. The queer rep is OwnVoices, too–the author notes at the end that she identifies as both aro-ace and genderqueer/genderfluid. And–get this!–more than once, when meeting new people in this book, characters actually ask each other for their pronouns. That is next-level inclusivity, and I am so here for it.
“As far as I know, pretending to be someone you’re not has never really helped anyone.”
As someone who is also ace, I felt like Sir Violet was an excellent representation of asexuality (and especially ace introverts). It doesn’t consume his identity, and he generally just doesn’t bother thinking about romantic or sexual things at all unless someone else brings it up–more often, he is preoccupied with the idea that he doesn’t fit in because he isn’t really an adventurous type. In his opinion, the most important things in life are things like cinnamon rolls and good friends, not derring-do and winning hearts, and he feels bad that he and his friends don’t often see themselves reflected in the stories they hear. That running theme, about the importance of representation, was absolutely wonderful to read.
He had realised how nice it would be if, once in a while, the bard would come to the pub and tell a s tory with characters like him. Where the happy ending would not involve a man and a woman riding off into the sunset together, but someone who ends up at home, wrapped in a blanket, sipping a cup of hot milk and eating a pastry.
Of course, given how short the story is, there isn’t a ton of time to delve deep into things like worldbuilding and deep character complexities, but for something executed in such limited space, this just…works. As I mentioned earlier, it feels like a long fairytale, rather than a short book, and the level of nuance and respect for individuality in every character is truly well done. Snap is a sarcastic dragon with a heart of gold and commentary that made me laugh out loud, and Holly and Juniper truly are like an old married couple, mingling bickering with deep affection.
“It seemed like such a good idea that I had to go and do it immediately. I got dressed, grabbed my rolling pin, and left.”
“Hold on. You brought a rolling pin?” Holly threw her hands up in exasperation. “I’ve married a walking cliché!”
“Hey, it’s effective! In…some situations,” Juniper said.
“Like making biscuits!” Holly crossed her arms.
Honestly, I don’t have much else I think I need to say about this book. It is simple, sweet, wholesome, and much-needed, with lovable characters and an important message. Whether you are an adult looking for something that reminds you of childhood but is far more accepting, or trying to find a book for a child who wants better representation in their fantasy, this book is a perfect choice. It isn’t a long read, but it is an impactful one that I’m sure will stick with me for quite some time, and I wholeheartedly recommend it for readers of all ages.
“What message do you think is so important that everyone should hear it?”
“The message that being different from what is considered the norm does not mean you will lead an unhappy life.”
Thank you to the publisher for providing me with an eARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!