Dragon Charmer by J.C. Kang is the second book in a YA alternate history fantasy series. I reviewed the first novel, Dragon Scale Lute, here . In the first book, I thought that the protagonist Princess Kaiya was too inexperienced to have good judgment. Her impulsiveness moved the plot in unexpected directions. The author assured me that this would change in Dragon Charmer. So I looked forward to learning how Kaiya would develop. I received this book from the author in return for an honest review.
In Dragon Charmer, the people and situations that Kaiya encounters often aren't what they seem to be. They are the unpredictable factors that drive the plot rather than Kaiya's behavior. Kaiya has become more cautious, but still idealistic and devoted to the interests of Cathay, which is the formal name for alternate China in this series. It is also called Hua. Both Cathay and Hua have been names by which China has been called in our universe at different points in history.
A good portion of this book takes place in alternate India where Kaiya has been sent on a diplomatic mission. She hopes to reunite with Prince Hardeep, the man with whom she fell in love in the first book. What Kaiya learns about Prince Hardeep is completely unexpected. Her hopes and goals change during the course of her mission. There were times when the alternate India section of the novel seemed like a cross between a Buddhist spiritual journey and an epic fantasy quest. There was an oracle making pronouncements about Kaiya's future, a lotus jewel that needed to be found, and dwarves who hum while they forge objects of power.
Since this novel is called Dragon Charmer readers may want to know if a dragon plays a role in its events. The dragon was often mentioned in Dragon Scale Lute, but seemed to be a rather marginal character. His role is more prominent in this novel. Kaiya must have been inwardly shocked by what she discovered about the dragon, but she didn't let these revelations unhinge her. She took them in stride. She acted decisively as a leader and a hero must act in a crisis. I was favorably impressed with Kaiya's growth.