Winter’s here, and that means the nicest thing you can do (or I can, anyway) is to snuggle up on a sofa with a big blanket and a hot chocolate and read a book. And as it happens, this is the perfect book with which to do it. The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart is by my friend Stephanie Burgis, and I’ve been intrigued by it ever since she mentioned the title on social media a while back. I was lucky enough to get my hands on a proof copy waaay in advance of its publication date of 9th February, and now I feel envious of all those lucky young people who will enjoy it for the first time!
Aventurine is a young dragon. Like all good heroines, she’s impetuous and doesn’t like doing what she’s told. So the constant protective ‘stay in the cave; this is for your own good’ control from her family gets right up her fiery nose and she decides to see for herself what the World Outside is like. It’s kind of like the wonderful film The Croods. Only with dragons. And chocolate. Because what Aventurine discovers on her very first trip outside is a human who is a food mage. And he turns her into a human girl – by giving her hot chocolate to drink.
There are definitely food magicians out there in the real world. Heston Blumenthal is one. And the person who thought one day, ‘What would it be like if I put salt in caramel?’ In fact, one of the most magical (and bizarre, because really, it shouldn’t work, should it?) combinations, chocolate and chilli, is used to great effect in the book.
Aventurine, unable to return home in human form, makes her way into the nearest town where she runs into two more brilliant female characters: Silke, a street-girl with a keen eye for profit and a marketing way with words; and Marina, owner of a “chocolate house” who takes Aventurine on as apprentice. I felt a great affinity with Marina, who would really just like to be left alone to make her chocolate experiments and loathes the fact that her passion really needs to turn a profit. I suspect many authors feel like this sometimes!
This is a lovely, exciting and sensuous story. Aventurine and Silke are wonderful young characters, and the inevitable clash between the human and dragon worlds is expertly handled, driving the story on to its exciting conclusion (which, I may, is as satisfying as chocolate).
Mixing fantasy and food, The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart will have its readers drooling – be warned, though, you’ll be left with very real cravings…!