The Vanishing Sculptor — "Valley of the Dragons" Series
This fantasy, adventure book by Donita K. Paul is published by Waterbrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. and is written for kids ages 12 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Tipper is the daughter of Verrin Schope, a famous artist who disappeared suddenly many years ago. Because Tipper's mother is mentally disturbed, Tipper runs the family estate, although she does receive some assistance from her guardian, Beccaroon, who is a large parrot. To pay the bills, Tipper has reluctantly sold most of her father's art. One night her father returns. He had not abandoned his family but had gone through a portal (gateway) to a land called Amara. He was forced to remain there for some time because the portal was damaged. Although the portal was partially fixed, the remaining damage still causes him to disappear several times a day.
The portal begins to rearrange Tipper's physical world as well (by moving trees, etc.). Accompanying Verrin home is Wizard Fenworth and his librarian; they believe the gateway must be restored quickly because Verrin's life and Tipper's world depend on the restoration. Three statues — carved at an earlier time by Verrin — were originally part of the gateway’s marble stone anchor. The statues must be found and brought together. Tipper, Verrin, Wizard Fenworth and two others embark on a quest to find these sculptures. They soon decide that travel by coach is too slow. When they obtain the services of riding dragons, Prince Jayrus, the dragon keeper, joins their quest.
As the group meets obstacles and overcomes evil men, Tipper's father and the Amaran travelers begin to teach the other members of their group about Wulder. Wulder is known as the god of Amara. It becomes clear to the Amaran travelers that the quest for the statues, though important, is part of a bigger plan. Wulder is bringing an awareness and knowledge of himself to the people of Chiril. He will use Prince Jayrus to be the people's champion, the Paladin for Chiril.
The third statue is the most difficult to acquire. An evil wizard, Runan, who seems innocent when they obtain the first statue from him, traps the group. Wizard Fenworth and Tipper stop him, and Wulder's champion leads the people in a battle against Runan’s evil army. Tipper's singing, a gift she discovered on the quest, encourages the people and helps them win.
The inhabitants of Chiril speak of a power they call Boscamon. They see this "deity" as a creator who is behind everything and ultimately rewards good and punishes evil. But Boscamon is mysterious, distant and inaccessible. The travelers from Amara know about Wulder, their god, and they teach Tipper and the other members of the quest about him. Wulder is loving and personal. He wants to be known. Tipper's father establishes the practice of giving thanks to Wulder before the group eats. He quotes from Wulder's tome. The Amaran travelers speak of Wulder's care and his desire for fellowship with his created beings. They model ethical behavior based on Wulder's principles. Tipper and the grand parrot begin to consider these teachings. All alone and apprehensive about the group's imminent attempt to rescue her kidnapped father, Tipper longs for a guardian who can be her constant companion.
When the group is tempted to sell a statue to an art collector, Mushand, and so unite all the statues, Jayrus applies the principles of Wulder and says they cannot sell the item. He says that they know Mushand to be evil, and they cannot make an alliance with such a man. They must trust Wulder to show them another way to unite the statues.
In this author's book Dragonspell, the character Paladin seemed to be a Christ figure. In this book, Prince Jayrus, who is revealed as the Paladin, is defined as the people's champion and Wulder's spokesman. Paladin, Fenworth says, will help the people of Chiril to know Wulder. However, Jayrus does not seem to be the only paladin in the world. Tipper's father says there is a paladin in Amara and refers to Jayrus as a paladin.
Other Belief Systems
There are wizards both good and evil who cast spells. Fenworth, the wizard traveling with Tipper, also has magical clothing. He mesmerizes one of the members of the quest to ease that man's fear of flying on the dragon’s back. From the description of mesmerizing, it sounds like a kind of hypnosis. Beccaroon, Tipper's guardian and one of the members of the quest, is a large parrot with human-like qualities and speech.
All the dragons have human-like personalities. One speaks out loud. The others communicate to each other and to some of characters through "mind speak." The dragons are not evil, but helpful. The minor dragons participate in the healing of people. A force of nature, a portal, allows people to travel great distances in minutes.
Verrin and Fenworth spout oaths occasionally. One villain is said to curse and another is said to fill the air with foul language, but the actual words are not written.
Thugs handle Tipper roughly on several occasions. A number of times she is threatened with death, including one time when she is held at sword point. Bamataub, the owner of one of the statues, attacks and tries to kill a member of the quest with a poker. His henchman cut off Beccaroon’s tail. Prince Jayrus kills several villains who are threatening others or attempting to kill him. When four thieves break into the group's hotel room, Fenworth distracts them by pulling tangles of snakes from his robe. Jayrus then physically overpowers the thieves. Fenworth dissolves an evil wizard. There is a battle sequence at the court ball, and some are killed or injured. The scene is not gory.
Tipper shows a budding romantic interest in Prince Jayrus. He kisses her on the cheek. Another time he holds her around the waist. Beccaroon, her guardian, is concerned that she not be alone with the prince because he is very handsome and has great charm. Near the end of the novel, Tipper asks her father if a paladin may marry.
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Tipper believes that her father will be angry with her for selling his art without his permission. Yet she also says that she did it as a last resort when she needed money to pay for upkeep of the estate. Her father, when he learns of the sale, does not chastise Tipper for going against his wishes. Nor does he make it plain to her that it was the best choice she could make given her circumstances and her knowledge. Tipper says later in answer to someone bringing up the sale of the art that her father "understands" the selling of it. The use of "understands" implies that Tipper still feels that she made the wrong choice. You may want to discuss this aspect of the story with your teen. Teens need to know that a good choice may still have uncomfortable consequences.
Since books teach as well as entertain, themes are important. This novel has many themes, some of which are not fully developed. It is probable that the author will expound on them in later novels.
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