Review of Dragonfruit, by Makiia Lucier

Version 1.0.0

by Makiia Lucier
read by Mapuana Makia

Clarion Books, 2024. 8 hours, 12 minutes.
Review written April 29, 2024, from a library eaudiobook.
Starred Review

Makiia Lucier is a relatively new fantasy author I’m watching closely. I read her second book when I was on the Newbery committee, but it was for young adults, so I took note but I had to keep quiet about books I was reading at that time. Then later her book Year of the Reaper was a Cybils Finalist, and I was impressed with the way it handled a population traumatized by plague and war. I snapped up this new book, and got something completely different – a fantasy set in a tropical island world.

This story features 18-year-old Hanalei, whose father fled with her from the island of Tamarind ten years ago, and 19-year-old Samahtitamahenele, Sam, the prince of Tamarind. But the crown passes only to women, Sam’s grandmother is getting old, and his mother has been in a coma for ten years. So Sam needs to find a wife. But more than that, Sam is searching for Dragonfruit – the eggs of a sea dragon. The eggs of a sea dragon, dragonfruit, are said to have the power to undo a person’s greatest sorrow. But with that hope comes a warning: Every wish demands a price.

Ten years ago, Hanalei had been a page at court, and she had eaten the same poison that still keeps Sam’s mother asleep. When dragonfruit was found, her father stole it and fed it to Hana instead of leaving it for the princess. And then fled the queendom with Hana. Hana did recover, but a few days later, her father died. She’s had a hard life since then, working in the factories that process the valuable body parts of sea dragons until she was fourteen, when her hands got too big. Since that time, Hana has been studying sea dragons, sending information to the academy on the largest island.

But as the book opens, Hana warns a set of dragons so they can escape the dragoners ready to kill them. Two of the dragons escape, but Hanalei doesn’t. However, they all see by the color of the frill that this dragon is pregnant, soon to lay eggs.

Further adventures bring her back to Tamaraind. Now Sam, too, is looking for the Dragonfruit, to at last wake his mother. But so is the ruthless dragoner. And what will the price of the wish be?

The setting of this book is delightful. Some additional magic of their island is many of the teens on the island develop magical tattoos of an animal. That animal can move around on their skin and even materialize off their skin in the real world, a companion who communicates with them and is always close at hand.

There’s a gentle romance in this book – indeed, I expected more drama than I got – and no sex at all, so it feels completely appropriate for younger teens, too. Hana and Sam are almost adults and it is a coming of age book, so older teens are the main audience. The book ended at a good place, but I can’t help hoping more stories are coming about this lovely island world, the sea dragons, and these two characters coming into their own.

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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