It is always fun when writers chose to mix fantastical fiction with historical fact. Granted, writing such a story is not an easy feat, having to be accurate in both the fictional and historical aspects. When executed with accuracy, these stories provide an entertaining alternative to how events in history “could have” happened. One such well-known historical event has been used countless times in this storytelling manner: World War II. Writer Philip Tolhurst took this dark event in history and mingled it with fantasy in his debut, George and the Dragon.
Thirteen year old George Atkins was moved with his mother to his uncle’s estate in the English countryside to escape the bomb raids threatening their home during World War II. To their surprise and horror, they are attacked by five dragons ridden by Luftwaffe airmen and, with his uncle’s home destroyed and his mother and uncle assumed dead, George believes he is alone and on the verge of dying. Yet amongst the rubble, a sixth dragon makes itself known: an emerald dragon who says George is his rider. When George and his new companion, Spitfire, are recruited into a special fighting unit, they learn they must defeat Colonel von Vogler, the leader of the Luftwaffe’s forces, and his dragon, Blitzkrieg, to save Britain.
For a debut, George and the Dragon is an entertaining story readers of any age group will find themselves enjoying. Older readers will better understand the historical aspects of Tolhurst’s story and will most certainly delight in his fascination with fighter planes from this time period. He describes the planes in excellent detail and gives just as must descriptive justice to his aerial battles, thus painting a wonderfully epic picture within the readers’ minds. Younger readers will delight in the epic battles between planes and dragons and the fact that dragons are brought into a historical war to fight against the Nazis. Not to mention, the boy chosen to fight and ride on a dragon is only thirteen years old.
Tolhurst does an excellent job of joining fact with fiction, creating a fascinating story behind how the dragons came into existence in the real world. His characters, both humans and dragons alike, are well-developed and likeable, especially for as many characters as Tolhurst placed in his book. His use of descriptive detail is exceptional, from aerial battles to the layout of the land to how the characters appear. There are times, though, when there seems to be too much detail and it takes away from the story a bit. Not to mention, while readers are aware of the fact that Tolhurst’s story takes place during World War II, it is rarely brought up in the actual story. With only scattered references to the war via mention of the Nazis, Führer, bomb raids, etc., this story could easily have turned into another story involving an entirely new war.
It is entertaining for readers to witness how writers mingle fantasy with factual events. George and the Dragon is a great addition to the fantasy works that show magic still exists in the real world. Excellent descriptive detail, a creative magical plot, and many characters with their own unique personalities truly bring Tolhurst’s debut to life. Though it could have most certainly stood on its own as its own fantasy war, even housing the elements to go into a steampunk fantasy world, Tolhurst’s mix of fantasy during World War II is clever and well-executed. With George and the Dragon being the first in his The Knights of the Sky series, there will be more opportunities in future books to add more of the historical element to the fantasy element.