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The Saint of Dragons    by Jason Hightman order for
Saint of Dragons
by Jason Hightman
Order:  USA  Can
Eos, 2004 (2004)

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* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Jason Hightman's debut novel, The Saint of Dragons, is a Dragon tale like no other. Thirteen-year-old Simon St. George is a boarding house student at the Lighthouse School for Boys in Ebony Hollow, the only home he has known since he was two years old. Simon's parents never visited, nor can he remember anything about them.

On a foggy, windy, perfect Halloween night, two men come looking for Simon. One is fashionably dressed in white, and the other is raggedy. While crossing a field, Simon hears hoof beats. A rider hastily approaches, picks up Simon, and rides away. Aldric St. George, claims to be Simon's father, who has learned that his son is no longer safe at the School, since the Dragons have learned where Simon has been hidden all these years. Aldric St. George is the 'Last Knight of the Ancient Order', a Dragonhunter descending from a long line of St. Georges. Aldric's present objective is to kill the evil creatures to the very last Dragon. Simon learns he is to join the 'family business - Dragonhunting'! Aldric's well-trained horse Valsephany and a very-smart red fox named Fenwick are part of the entourage that sets out on a self-steering sailing vessel, 'The Ship With No Name'.

Ancient Dragons have not disappeared, and are extremely dangerous to humans. The creatures are disguised as men, blending into society, making fires for sport, living in luxury in New York City, Paris, London, the canals of Vienna, caves in Africa, and under Egyptian sands. Dragons - a.k.a. Draconius, Reptellans, Serpentines, and Pyrothraxes - vary in purpose, style, likes and dislikes, and they hate each other! The White Dragon, a.k.a. 'Venemones', lives in a Central Park Manhattan apartment. Alaythia Moore, museum curator, is attracted to Venemones and his paintings. Of course she sees him as a handsome, charming human. Aldric and Simon slay Venemones and rescue Alaythia, who joins the team.

The trio soon learns that the White Dragon IS NOT the 'Last', and further travels set them on a very dangerous course. We learn that the Venetian Dragon lives in the waters of the canals. The Dragon of Paris loves art, i.e., he eats paintings -- the canvas, paint colors and all, so that 'the inside of his stomach looked like a work of Jason Pollock'. The Russian Red Dragon loves cats, and uses them for evil purposes, as well as for a lining of his bathtub. China's Black Dragon is quite old and stands at just over five feet tall. The Dragons speak the language of their home countries as well as Dragonspeak, like 'Eeer ticky, ticky, ticky'.

On occasion, Hightman uses gentle poetic thoughts, such as 'from the pipesmoke ... Simon could see the outline of a boy and the Dragon himself on its deck. The pleasant image drifted away above the tides, until a flock of seabirds and the breeze passed through it, making it into a stringy mist.' With appropriate chapter titles like 'Things That Go Splash in the Dark', constant action, surprises, wit and humor, Hightman keeps the reader's attention from introduction to epilogue. He even tells us 'that Dragon nails are delicious with salt and pepper ... only thing is they leave the eater with Dragon-breath!'

As the modern-medieval tale unfolds, it becomes pleasingly complex, deliciously dangerous, and heart-stopping suspenseful. Jason Hightman asks 'can we ever truly know those closest to us?' I will not think about Dragons the same way again ... for that matter, I'll not think about the person standing next to me in the same way again!

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