In Isle of Dragons, L.A. Thompson combines page-turning urgency with full, vibrant characters to create a mesmerizing world of magic, monsters, and captivating technology.

Isle of Dragons chronicles the travels of Jade Sol, a teenage girl on a mission to rescue her father from the clutches of a shadowy, tyrannical regime. After he is unjustly imprisoned and sent to the titular Isle of Dragons, Jade sets out across a magical, futuristic land on a giant mechanical centipede to help him escape. Along the way, she receives help from Miria and Dan Atkins, two quirky siblings who offer unique skills that represent the two major components of their universe — magic and machines, respectively. The story takes place in a fictional world that combines elements of steampunk technology and more classic fantasy, glued together by the stylized feudalism common to both kinds of literature. As the three characters lunge towards the unexpected, they must overcome fantastical obstacles in uncharted territory to find Jade’s father and take down the royal army.

Isle of Dragons champions fast-paced action-adventure without sacrificing the depth of its characters or the richness of its fascinating universe. Thompson’s bold take on world building manages to set the book apart and present a truly original narrative. The interplay between “old magic” and “new technology” work together to convey a poignant message about the corruption of the royal court and what happens when we fail to reconcile the possibilities of the future with the reality of history. The book’s charming characters serve to offer us a light at the end of that tunnel. As they plunge into the unknown, we can see that their heroism is not just bound to the events of the book, but can be found in the hope they present for the future of their world.

Thompson is a master at embedding these rich undertones in the story’s quick, engaging action. Novels that excel in the action-adventure genre are ones that can use familiar tropes to tell unique stories. One of the book’s central themes, for example, is the sacredness of family — one that’s relatively common for the genre. However, the dynamics between Miria and Dan and the subplotted loss of their parents positioned alongside Jade’s search for her own father all work together to weave an original, textured approach to an otherwise cliched theme, defiantly reminding us that there are still new ways to tell stories. Adjacently, Thompson explores the theme of community with astounding poise and originality through the close bond forged between Jade, Miria, and Dan. Whether through sharing trauma or working together to overcome hardship, the characters teach us something about friendship that resonates especially well with today’s audience. In this way, Thompson explores another rather common theme, finding the perfect language to spin it in a new, relatable way.

Isle of Dragons is one of a kind; its well-written characters will carry you along its rich, magical landscape.