Blood Brothers by Carole Wilkinson
Black Dog Books, 2012. ISBN: 9781742031897.
Highly recommended for ages 10 and up. Tao, happily ensconced as a novice Buddhist monk in the Yinmi Monastery, is intent on translating ancient scrolls and working diligently to ensure that he and his much loved brother will gain grace and favour in their future lives. When he is confronted by a dragon whilst carrying out his labours, Tao decides not to tell anyone of what he has seen and soon becomes involved in helping and healing Kai. The dragon, Kai, now 465 years of age, is merely a teenager, set on finding his new dragon keeper. Despite Tao's disbelief that it is he who has been chosen to fulfil this role, Kai seems determined that he is correct and demands that the young man take on the task. Against his better judgement, Tao temporarily leaves the Monastery and heads off on an adventure with the dragon.
Despite Wilkinson having previously sworn that she would not be writing any future books in this series, she will undoubtedly have created a very happy bunch of fans by continuing the story of Kai's adventures. Due to Kai being a familiar character, with distinctive methods of communication and behaviour, it was very easy to pick up this new tale and feel I'd almost read parts of it before. Nonetheless, it is very much a new story and I enjoyed meeting Tao and his family. I revelled in seeing him squirm as he began to question his calling as a monk, or become less able to follow their demands strictly. For example, the loss of the special cloth which had been used for straining his water to ensure he could avoid consuming any small living creatures saw a loosening of his beliefs or practices. Through such instances, the author has made this into something of a coming of age novel as well as an enjoyable fantasy. Death, family relationships, duty, responsibility and the following of one's calling are all themes which appear in this most enjoyable story.