The dragon Grisha, real name Benevolentia Gaudium, was born in 1803, the last year of dragon births special or otherwise. His story told by Garret Weyr in The Language of Spells will suit anyone who loves a good old-fashioned fairy tale, although the suggested audience is for middle grade readers.
Early on, the wicked Leopold turns Grisha into a teapot. Few people are able to see him or any other dragons for that matter. He is stuck in a world where “Dragons had once been part of how people brought magic into the world but now the world, it was plain to see, had no use for either.” In fact, someone decided the world had too many dragons and, based on eye color, allowed some to roam freely while others were hidden and put into a permanent sleep.
After his confinement through two World Wars, Grisha is released from the teapot and forms a friendship with Maggie, a lonely half-orphaned child schooled by a rather lenient father. Magic will help them solve the mystery and problem of the lost dragons, but at a cost. Performing magic requires that one give up something precious – time, money, or something dearly loved.
The characters in this whimsical book intrigued me. There is Maggie to whom I related because she knows for herself that she has not inherited her dead mother’s painting talent “. . . no matter how careful she was, her figures were always potato-like lumps trying to be something other than potatoes.” Grisha, the dragon, hated all stories beginning with once upon a time.And then there was the cat that Maggie realized was rude just because. It wasn’t personal.
Wisdom came in finding the truth about where the magic really is that was thought to be in the unicorn’s horn to cure illness, but the best advice came from Lennox, the old dragon. “Everyone can look at the world, but only those who pause to see what is wrong can change it.”
A middle grader will enjoy the story line. Some of them and those who are older will piece together the allegory that is for all time.