Three Tasks for a Dragon

Three Tasks for a Dragon

This book will be your treasure. You will read it to yourself, you will read it out loud, and you will share it with friends and family.

It is a book about a dragon and a prince and a scullery maid who are more than they seem. They are unaware and there are secrets. It is a book about magic and science, treachery and triumph, hatred and deep, wondrous love.

Reading the text out loud is irresistible. One feels like a bard, rolling the words out, knowing the audience will be captivated.

illustration from Three Tasks for a Dragon
illustration copyright © P.J. Lynch from Three Tasks for a Dragon, written by Eoin Colfer,
published by Candlewick Press, 2023

The illustrations by the masterful P.J. Lynch are done in pencil and colored digitally in a muted palette that sets us firmly in another place and time. 

As you see in the two-page spread above, the entrance to the dragon’s lair is rimmed with jagged stones resembling teeth so that Prince Lir appears to be treading into the dragon’s mouth. A brilliant choice.

In a closeup of a wolfhound, creatures who are integral to the story, Lynch has shown the intelligence in the hound’s eyes, at once helping us trust and depend on them.

The first full reveal of the dragon Larsvarg shows him to be magnificent. And yet, there are two things he wants no one to know: he can no longer breathe fire and he cannot fly. These are sources of great sorrow and shame for him.

In Eoin Colfer’s story, we learn about Prince Lir, the maid Cethlenn, and the dangerous Larsvarg, who holds both of the humans’ lives in thrall. Lir has been cast out of his home, sent to Larsvarg to be killed, and Cethlenn is unwittingly helping that happen.

And yet, this story is filled with the unexpected. At one point, I was sure the story was drawing to a happy ending … but wait, there was much more to know.

The storyteller’s language is compelling. In one example of foreshadowing, we learn “In later times, when he was a different person, Lir would dream of these days and awaken with tears on his cheeks.”

Colfer chooses an omniscient voice so we can observe deviousness and evil, kindness and truth from the inside out.

I believe this book belongs in every home, library, and classroom that has respect and a yearning for the storytelling tradition.

Three Tasks for a Dragon
written by Eoin Colfer
illustrated by P.J. Lynch
Candlewick Press, 2023
Suggested for ages 8 and up
ISBN 978-1536229998 (hc)

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