In Mindy Mejia’s The Dragon Keeper a zookeeper fights to save the animal she loves, even as her own life crumbles around her…
The Dragon Keeper Synopsis:
Meg Yancy knows she may be overly attached to Jata, the Komodo dragon that has been in her care since it arrived at the zoo from Indonesia. Jata brings the exotic to Meg’s Minnesotan life: an ancient, predatory history and stories of escaping to freedom. A species that became endangered soon after being discovered, Komodos have a legacy of independence, something that Meg understands all too well. Meg has always been better able to relate to reptiles than to people, from her estranged father to her live-in boyfriend to the veterinarian who is more concerned with his career than with the animals’ lives.
Then one day, Meg makes an amazing discovery. Jata has produced viable eggs—without ever having had a mate. Faced with this rare phenomenon, Meg must now defend Jata’s hatchlings from the scientific, religious, and media forces that converge on the zoo to claim the miracle as their own.
Finally forced to deal with the very people she has avoided for so long, Meg discovers that opening herself up comes with its own complications. And as she fights to save the animal she loves from the consequences of its own miracle, she must learn to accept that in nature, as in life, not everything can be controlled.
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If you have been avoiding the burgeoning ‘eco-lit’ scene, fiction that tackles serious issues regarding man’s impact on the environment, thinking such important messages will encroach on an author’s scope to entertain, then you should think again. In her debut novel The Dragon Keeper, Mindy Mejia strikes just the right balance between interrogation of societal behaviour and compelling entertainment.
Mejia’s protagonist, Meg Yancy is an endearingly flawed character. She is passionate, she over-reacts and she self-sabotages – she understands the behaviour of animals more than she does people. People make promises they don’t keep – animals don’t make promises.
In less skilled hands the story elements could have combined to form something pedestrian. I was impressed by the way Mejia structured this novel to aid character development, enhance suspense and imbue gravitas. The hatching of the Komodo dragon eggs is the anchor point around which the entire story is framed. Each chapter is signposted as either before or after ‘Hatching’ by x hours, days or months, and the narrative moves back and forwards over time slowly uncovering pieces of the puzzle.
Mejia’s writing style is refreshingly down-to-earth and accessible while still conveying dignity and a sense of grandeur in passages, such as this observation by Meg at the hatching.
There was a hypnotic glaze over his black eyes, that cloudiness born from the inner war between determination and exhaustion. She knew that look. He was gathering his strength. He was getting ready to change everything.
The Dragon Keeper is as much about the plight of the animals as it is about the personal journeys of the humans involved. Some of them serious, others a little more entertaining… Enter stage left, the love interest…
Antonio was the head veterinarian, a tall, dark, handsome pain in the ass. When he wasn’t working his Latin heart-throb angle on some hapless intern, he was using the zoo as his personal laboratory to grab as much industry attention as his endless studies could get.
Meg sees Antonio as the embodiment of everything that she despises about the commercialization of animals… but you know what they say about making assumptions, and those that protest too much…
What makes The Dragon Keeper so successful in conveying its eco message is that it does not preach. Mejia has respectfully presented alternate viewpoints through a cast of characters that a broad audience can relate to.
The Dragon Keeper – an entertaining story that will leave you with a broadened mind and a sense of hope.
BOOK RATING: The Story 4.5 / 5 ; The Writing 4 / 5 — Overall 4.25
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Genre: Action, Romance, Mystery, Drama
About the Author, Mindy Mejia
Mindy Mejia was born and raised in a small-town-turned-suburb in the Twin Cities area. She received a BA from the University of Minnesota and an MFA from Hamline University. Other than brief interludes in Iowa City and Galway, she’s lived and worked in Minnesota her entire life.
Mindy generally focuses her fiction writing on the novel, though she also writes short stories, which have appeared in rock, paper, scissors; Things Japanese: An Anthology of Short Stories; and THIS Literary Magazine.
The Dragon Keeper is Mindy’s debut novel. Her second novel, Everything You Want Me to Be, was published by Emily Bestler Books in 2017 and was a People magazine Best New Books Pick and one of the Wall Street Journal’s Best New Mysteries.
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* My receiving a copy of this book from Ashland Creek Press did not impact my ability to express my honest opinions on this title.