Paper Dragons: The Fight for the Hidden Realm by Siobhan McDermott

In her debut novel, Paper Dragons, the first in what sets itself up for a sequel or series, Siobhan McDermott has created a fantasy adventure story about twelve-year-old Yeung Zhi Ging. Although Zhi Ging has grown up in the village of Fei Chui, she wants to be its next Silhouette. When she catches the eye of a Silhouette Scout named Reishi, Zhi Ging fights hard to secure his recommendation. Even though she doesn’t finish her exam, somehow—whether by magic or by fate—she gets named Fei Chui’s Second Silhouette and gains access to the training in Hok Woh, which is the underwater home of the immortal Cyo B’Ahon. Here, she must pass the twelve challenges required in order to become a full-fledged Cyo B’Ahon, one of the elite who are the guardians of the nation.

While McDermott has created a tale of fantasy, the truths her novel tells are wise ones about how we are all effectively immortal “as long as we keep thinking and challenging our minds” (85), how we need to remember the value of ruling by respect and not by fear, and how we need to monitor our arrogance. After all, how can we offer guidance and judgement if we see ourselves as above others?

Through Zhi Ging’s adventures, readers not only recognize that difference is not a disadvantage but also realize the value of the twelve skills needed to become a Cyo B’Ahon, “six to protect those you will watch over and six to achieve immortality. . . . To stop rulings that will hurt future generations, you must have a deep understanding of both the provinces and those living in them. This involves a natural aptitude in six areas: Climate, Calligraphy, Concealment, Flora, Fauna, and Folklore” (90-91). These combine with the “six skills essential for ageshifting: Perception, Prediction, Perseverance, Recall, Reasoning, and Rapport” (91).

Finally, the keen reader will likely admire McDermott’s craft with allegory, as well as find her naming skills clever: Mynah, Jack Oltryds, and K’Ah Pindirent to name a few.

  • Posted by Donna

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