The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis
A young, golden-eyed dragon named Aventurine is chafing at the restrictions her family has placed on her: dragons aren’t allowed outside of the caverns until they’re 40 or 50 years old, when their wings are strong enough for flight and their scales have hardened enough to protect them against arrows and swords. Aventurine’s mother encourages her to “find her passion” in studying history, math or philosophy, but Aventurine just wants to go explore and be free. How can she not, with a name like Aventurine?
So one day she sneaks out of their caverns. When she finds a stray human on their mountain she thinks she’s in luck: bringing a delicious human back to the cavern will surely impress her family! The human is suitably terrified of her and Aventurine is about to pounce when … wait … what’s that delicious-smelling food he’s cooking? It’s hot chocolate, which Aventurine has never heard of before. She agrees to wait to eat the human until he can finish making the chocolate. Unfortunately for Aventurine, though not for the human, he’s a food mage, and the spell that he quickly puts on the hot chocolate turns Aventurine into a twelve year old human girl when she drinks it.
Aventurine is distraught: the mage won’t change her back, despite her (now not-so-scary) demands, and she can’t go back to her caverns in human form ― her family will eat her before she’s able to talk to them. But since she’s stuck in human form, she decides to travel to the big city and find more of this delicious chocolate stuff. Mmmmm …
Lots of adventures await Aventurine in the city: The difficulties of finding an apprenticeship at a chocolate house, Aventurine’s dream job. Encounters with a greedy, conniving woman who tries to shame and discourage Aventurine so she’ll accept a position with her as an unpaid servant. And unusual sightings of dragons in the air, which bring the king’s battle mages out in force.
The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart (2017), the first book in Stephanie Burgis’s new TALES FROM THE CHOCOLATE HEART series, is a delicious confection, a middle grade/YA fantasy novel that blends dragons and the art of chocolate-making with adventure and some significant life lessons. The tale started off a little slow, but gelled once Aventurine finds her place in the city. It all went down smoothly in one evening’s reading, though the wonderful descriptions of chocolate creams, chocolate tarts and spicy hot chocolate made me a little hungry by the end of it.
Aventurine’s dragon family members are enjoyable characters: brave, intelligent and learned, if sometimes quick to anger, as one might expect of dragons. I appreciated how Aventurine kept many of her dragon characteristics even when she was in human form. When she gets angry she roars, or tries to, and is inclined to leap at enemies with her hands stretched out like claws. Aventurine’s name is delightful: it’s a green semiprecious stone (all of her dragon family is named after jewels: Jasper, Citrine, Tourmaline, and so on), it’s reflective of her adventurous heart, and it’s also wonderfully original. Aventurine learns about friendship from Silke, a dark-skinned girl she meets in the city; about not giving up when disasters happen from Marina, a feisty chocolatier; and about finding something in life that she can be passionate about through her own experiences.
The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart has been nominated for the 2018 Locus Award for Young Adult Books as well as the 2018 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature. I enthusiastically recommend it for older elementary and middle grade readers, and it’s interesting enough to engage adults who enjoy fantasies that skew a little to the younger side of the YA spectrum.
Now where’s my chocolate stash?
Is it weird that this isn’t the first book I’ve read about a dragon addicted to chocolate?
Hatching Magic by Ann Downer-Hazell
Too funny! I haven’t heard of Hatching Magic, but I went to take a look at it and the cover looks slightly familiar. The blurb mentioned a chocolate wyvern – is it edible?