Book Review: THE CRACKLEDAWN DRAGON by Abi Elphinstone (Middle Grade Monday)

Title in wonky black on yellow with a two kids on a dragon swooping around it
Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: MG
Star Rating: 4 stars
Series: yes - final book



Book cover for THE CRACKLEDAWN DRAGON: title in silver on the wings of a blue dragon in a yellow underwater land with two kids on his back

Where the map ends, the adventure begins . . .

11-year-old Zebedee Bolt is on the run. Again. Only this time it’s not the police who find him. It’s an evil harpy called Morg. And when she hauls him into Crackledawn, an Unmapped kingdom that conjures sunlight for our world, Zeb discovers running away only gets you so far.

When magic’s involved, you’ve got to pick a side. And though Zeb vowed he wouldn’t trust anyone ever again, he didn’t expect to stumble aboard The Kerfuffle, an enchanted boat belonging to a girl called Oonie and her talking chameleon, Mrs Fickletint.

Suddenly, Zeb finds himself on a voyage complete with silver whales, fire krakens and underwater palaces. Can he muster up enough trust in others, and in magic, to summon a dragon, find the Ember Scroll and defeat Morg once and for all?

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


THE CRACKLEDAWN DRAGON is the second book this year that’s third in a series I had thought was going to be a quartet not a trilogy. No idea how that happened to me not once by twice! I’m a little bit sad that Silvercrag (the final Unmapped Realm, and the only one without a book dedicated to it) got so little page time (less than 50 pages!)

I loved returning to the Unmapped Kingdoms for another adventure in this imaginative world. Drinks that make your bottom wobble, an elephant that never forgets anything, a hurtle (turtle-like-thing) that does your housework! It’s just endless fun, and lots of laughs. Plus this books always pass way too quickly for my liking, as they’re just so readable.

As a nice distinguishing feature from the other entries, Zeb does not accidentally end up in the Unmapped Kingdoms and then end up on the quest to save the world immediately. Instead, he’s dragged there by Morg, and joins her team at first. He’s hurt and vengeful, so an evil harpy is quite easily able to exploit that. Then he realises she’s going to double cross him, rather than granting his dreams, so NOPE, no longer on Team Harpy!

This is the first book in the series where a protagonist from a previous book returns in more than just a cameo role. I really liked seeing Fox again. It’s not a major part, but it’s important to Zeb’s journey that she’s there. Given the fact this series is spread over more than a hundred years of our world (into the future, but as so much time is spent in the Unmapped Kingdoms, there’s not much “our” world seen, so it feels like the now), Fox is now an adult! There are very rarely competent, child-safety-conscious adults in MG or YA, so it was a nice change.

I really appreciated the fact that, at the end of the book, after the big battle where (as you’d expect) Morg is defeated once and for all, the human world isn’t suddenly put to rights. Not much time is spent back in “Faraway” (aka, Earth) and the focus is on Zeb’s arc, but there’s no line saying that the climate emergency is magically fixed. It’s implied by the world’s premise, but it felt better, given the real climate emergency, to leave it as potentially still a mess to drive home the point that we have to act to stop the situation getting even worse.

Read my reviews of other books by Abi Elphinstone:

The Unmapped Chronicles (this series):

The Dreamsnatcher:



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