About the Book

Title: Dragonfruit
Published: 2024
Swoonworthy Scale: 3

Cover Story: Busy Big Face
BFF Charm: Yay x 2
Talky Talk: In Medias Res
Bonus Factors: Living Tattoos, Moral Dilemmas
Anti-Bonus Factors: Animal Abuse, Villains
Relationship Status: Island Adventure

Cover Story: Busy Big Face

The girl in the flower crown holding the titular dragonfruit must be Hanalei, but what’s going on around her? 

The Deal:

“Every wish demands a price.”

In this fictional universe, a “dragonfruit” is not just a spiky fruit filled with nutrients. It’s a seadragon’s egg, and eating it will undo your greatest sorrow, but at a price: save one life, and someone else dies instead. Still, human nature being what it is, those eggs are in high demand. Prince Samathi of Tamarind wants one to cure his dying mother. Dragon scholar Hanalei is torn between her love for the magnificent creatures and her loyalty to the royal family. Meanwhile Captain Bragadin, a dragon hunter and pirate, is out to make his fortune at any cost.

BFF Charm: Yay x 2

2 BFF charms

When we first meet Hanalei, she’s risking capture or death to warn a pair of expectant dragon parents that their eggs are in danger (because she wants an egg for herself, but also out of genuine concern). Samathi, although his position seems more privileged, is facing the end of his family line if he doesn’t marry or cure his mother. Neither character ever gives up on their problems, though. “The cure for worry is action,” as Sam says, and they prove that saying true.

Swoonworthy Scale: 3

Hanalei and Sam have a subtle childhood-friends-to-maybe-something-more chemistry, but it mostly stays in the background during their search for the dragon eggs. Sam is unenthusiastic about courtship in general, because he’s under pressure to produce an heir, but the beautiful dragon expert who never treats him like a prince might be the exception. As for Hanalei, she’s lived a rough life as an exile from her island, so Sam represents home and safety for her. I just wish we could have seen more of them together.

Talky Talk: In Medias Res

Lucier dives straight into the action in the first chapter, and we don’t learn about the characters’ backstory or motivation until later. It works for the story, though, keeping the suspense high, building compassion for the dragons and for the girl studying them long before we know why.

Bonus Factor: Living Tattoos

Some of the people of Tamarind begin to show “markings” in their late teens: animal tattoos that can leave their skin and appear as real, three-dimensional creatures. The Lord Protector has a shark. The Queen has an eight-eyed spider. Sam is looking after a bat that originally belonged with his now-comatose mother. One of the royal guards has a swarm of fireflies. They all not only reflect the personalities of their human counterparts, but are very useful in practical ways (not to mention awesome).

Bonus Factor: Moral Dilemmas

Close up of dictionary page for "morality"

Hanalei only wants to study and protect dragons, but she is complicit in their slaughter because it’s her only chance to survive. Sam wants to save his mother, but not at the risk of putting Hanalei in danger. The “Every wish demands a price” rule of the dragon eggs means there are no easy choices for any of the cast. 

Anti-Bonus Factor: Animal Abuse

An open lock on a cage

The practice of dragon hunting is described in ways reminiscent of whale hunting in real life. There are some gory scenes, including one of living people being cut out of a dead dragon’s belly, that you may want to skim over if you’re as squeamish as I am.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Villains

Photo of Darth Vader from Star Wars

Captain Bragadin, Hanalei’s former employer, uses child labor in his dragon-processing factory (she was eight years old when she started) and is willing to destroy a rival ship to let its crew be eaten by dragons. And that’s just in the first few chapters. 

Relationship Status: Island Adventure

This book is the perfect antidote to a northern winter. Side effects may include a craving for sunshine, flowers and anything coconut-flavored.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received no compensation for this review. Dragonfruit is available now.

Literary Matchmaking

To Shape a Dragon’s Breath (Nampeshiweisit #1)

Moniquill Blackgoose’s To Shape a Dragon’s Breath is also a dragon story from a non-European perspective.

Seraphina (Seraphina #1)

Read Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina for a very different take on dragon-human relationships.

The Hero and the Crown (Damar #2)

And check out Robin McKinley’s The Hero and the Crown if you prefer a more Tolkienesque style of dragon.

Regina Peters works in the video game industry, but her favourite imaginary worlds are on paper. She lives in Montreal, Canada, with her family.