Billy Chan would rather spend the summer holidays surfing with his friends in California but his parents are keen he improves his Mandarin and learns more about his Chinese heritage (his father is from Hong Kong), so they pack him off to Camp Dragon in mainland China. There he meets 11 other kids from all over the world. The camp is run by Old Gold, a wizened old Chinese man who is surprising sprightly for his age, aided by his grandson JJ. Old Gold divides the kids into three groups of four and sends them off on a challenge. Billy, accompanied by Irish lad Dylan, Chinese girl Ling-Fei, and Texan Charlotte venture away from the camp in their search for dragon fruit. Taking a forbidden shortcut through a bamboo grove, the kids arrive at a pavilion – where they meet a tiger, who drives them to a limestone cliff before disappearing. Back at the camp, no one believes Billy and his team found a tiger, but when the four kids return to the area to search for Ling-Fei’s necklace, they end up not only finding the necklace but four terrifying dragon waiting for them inside the mountain.
This is the first book in a series and there is lots to enjoy. First of all, dragons. Who can’t love dragons, be they fantastical animals or fearsome monsters? I really liked the four dragons in this story and how they bonded with the humans. I enjoyed the journey into the dragon realm, the imaginative monsters the kids encounter, the evil antagonists, and the epic battle that must be waged to save both the dragon realm and Billy’s world.
I liked the kids as well, and was very happy to meet Dylan O’Donnell from Galway. He wasn’t the bravest of the kids (by a long shot) and he talked about rain a bit (yes, we tend to do that!) but it was still nice to see an Irish boy among the cast.
I think the story will appeal a lot to kids at the younger end of middle grade. The world is fun, the dragons imaginative, but the plot is simple and the character development limited. That being said, both TOTP and I enjoyed it, and would be happy to read more books in the series.
TOTP says 8 diamonds out of 10.