by Rebecca Lim
reviewed by Sarah Custance
‘The Race for the Red Dragon’ is the second novel in the ‘Children of the Dragon’ series by Rebecca Lim, the first being ‘The Relic of the Blue Dragon’. Rebecca Lim is the award-winning author of ‘The Astrologer’s Daughter’, ‘Afterlight’, and ‘Mercy’ all written for the YA age group. This current series is wonderfully well written for a middle-grade audience blending cultures, history, mythology, and even family into a captivating page-turner of a book.
Harley Spark is our 13-year-old male protagonist who, after releasing Qing, a powerful young dragon whose human appearance is that of a teenage girl, from a blue vase (events of the first novel), now finds himself on a mission throughout China to find the other dragons, before the evil Grandmaster Chiu Chiu Pang gets there first. On their journey, Harley and Qing get separated from Harley’s questionably employed father and his German helper/friend Schumacher and must find their own way to the last known origins of the Red Vase that has trapped one of Qing’s sisters for hundreds of years. They each have to learn new skills and who to trust, especially when Qing’s dragon powers are getting stronger by the day.
This is such a fun and different book to the dragon books you would normally find in middle-grade fiction. Lim beautifully blends different cultures and mythology into the story so that you can’t help but be pulled deeper into the narrative at each turn. To have a book about an Australian boy traveling with an ancient Chinese girl, his father, and their German friend (who slips quite frequently back into his native tongue) all work together and not feel strained is a miracle in itself and the added Chinese history/mythology throughout the book feel more like precious gemstones rather than forced cultural interactions.
If you are looking for a complex, culturally respective and empathetic, action-packed, riveting read then these books are just the thing. I can’t think of any series that so successfully incorporates real cultures and mythology as well as the ‘Children of the Dragon’ series does.
Allen & Unwin 2019 Paperback $14.99 208 pages Age 9+ ISBN 9781760297374
Further Reading: I would strongly recommend any book by Emma Carroll to fans of this series and vice versa, along with Celine Kiernan’s series ‘Begone the Raggedy Witches’ which has a similar mythological and folk tale/cultural feel.