The Dragon Keeper’s Handbook: Including the Myth & Mystery, Care & Feeding, Life & Lore of these Fiercely Splendid Creatures
By Shawn MacKenzie
Published 2011; 314 pages
–Review by Douglas Balzer
Here be Dragons . . . Not the slavering, whimsical monsters from childhood fancies, but real dragons—fierce, complex, wondrous, and wild. They do not require our belief; they never have. – from the publisher.
Do you need to stimulate your imagination back to life? Then think momentarily about St. George and the dragon. It is a classic medieval tale that is still told today. For me, there has always existed a childhood fascination with dragons. Growing up hearing the tales of the fierce beasts and the knights who rescued people from them and ultimately slew the monsters was just what a boy like me needed to fuel his imagination while on my grandparent’s farm. There were many an adventure into the woods of the canyon, (Silver Creek Canyon, Oregon) that with my brothers and cousins we engaged the creatures. Sometimes we would become friends with the dragons. Other times we fought great battles. The variety within their kind was endless only limited by our imaginations.
Shawn MacKenzie brought back so many wonderful childhood memories and reignited the flame of my imagination for these fascinating creatures we call dragons. Her book, The Dragon Keeper’s Handbook will light the way to encountering Dragon’s in ways you never imagined existed. Besides, I have always wanted a pet dragon, and this handbook might just make it possible to understand “how to befriend and influence dragons.” (Yes, Dale Carnegie pun intended).
The publisher presents this book in a “non-fiction fiction” style. MacKenzie’s style of writing is brilliant and captivating, as well as unique. I found the book hard to put down once I started reading it. Personally, it was a delight to read because the writing is so entertaining and interactive. MacKenzie uses a narrative style reminiscent of ancient times when oral tradition was considered the highest authority and at the same time places footnotes in the text as if it is an academic presentation. For me, it is the best of both worlds, entertaining and educating. Some of the gems of the book are hidden in the footnotes, such as, “Flat-earthers do not make the world any less round.” The ancient becomes real and relevant, the archetypes, metaphors, and imagery are semiotically stimulating as you explore the deep undertones of the book. There are times you might ask yourself, am I reading about dragons or humanity?
Mackenzie’s chapters and titles are sometimes a bit ambiguous with subtitles that help fill in the vagueness. Her style works because she fills the book with a humorous and funny tone, as well as tongue in cheek jokes and opinionated foot notes with the flights of fervent grandiloquence. (I have always wanted to use that word in a sentence). The history and story of dragons are laid out for your consideration. It is an enchanting writing that might make you actually believe in dragons and the ability to become a dragon keeper. When you read the book be sure to read between the lines because between the metaphors and the truth it is blurry, it is the place of discovery, self-discovery. MacKenzie is an artist of clever parody though she doesn’t try to hide or disguise it for your entertainment.
As a fan of fantasy, The Dragon Keeper’s Handbook by MacKenzie is a rapturous experience in reading and fueling the imagination. So, I invite you to discover the realm of Dragons and pseudo-dragons, their habits, and habitats from the tiny pisuhänds to the Cosmic Creators. There is an inspiring world inside the pages of this book.