Friday, March 23, 2012

The Last Dragon by Jane Yolen with illustrations by Rebecca Guay

The Last Dragon by Jane Yolen with illustrations by Rebecca Guay is a luscious graphic novel which takes place in an age when dragons have long since been killed out of existence and a peaceful village can enjoy an uncomplicated life.   Here a healer and his wife raise their three daughters: Rosemary, the eldest who takes after her mother; Sage, a beauty who yearns for her true love to come from across the sea; and Tansy, the youngest, who has her father’s gift for understanding the herbs and their healing properties.

One day when Tansy is burned by a flower that hasn’t been seen in centuries and it doesn’t take her father long to realize that there is a dragon’s egg somewhere nearby.  Unfortunately, he recognizes the danger too late and the dragon is hatched and hungry.  Soon the villagers send out three boys to find a hero who can rescue them from the ravages of the wakened dragon.  They return with Lancot, who looks like a hero, and tells stories of his heroic past, but Tansy has her doubts. 

In spite of a few odd anachronistic moments, the story is well told, as one would expect from Yolen who truly is a master storyteller.  She uses traditional themes—an extinct dragon emerging from a “long sleep,” three daughters the youngest of whom is destined to save the day, and even a flawed savior who may manage to save the day in spite of himself.  The illustrations by Guay are gorgeous, the muted tones and effective use of panel layout all enhance the story telling without outshining it.  Then again, it would be hard for most artists to outshine Yolen; just as difficult for an artist to have the same superior quality of work. 

Here an artistic storyteller meets a storytelling artiste and the end result is a sheer delight.  There are so many archetypes played with in this one story and I enjoyed every turn of the page.  And, as with all good tales, there is a happily ever after. 

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