To Shape a Dragon's Breath: The First Book of Nampeshiweisit

Moniquill Blackgoose

History is written by the victors of war. The ones who came in and beat everyone else up. This is probably why we find the stories of those who were overthrown, who became slaves, or who were ruled by intruders so intriguing.

To Shape a Dragon’s Breath, in my opinion, gives one of the best descriptions of this perspective. The reality of life for a conquered people, and specifically of one teen girl, Anequs, who is about to step into womanhood and discovers the unimaginable. 

A dragon. 

A dragon in her lands where dragons have not been seen for multiple generations of her people. Her people being one of many indigenous tribes whose lands and lives have been utterly disrupted and overtaken by the Anglish. 

And who are the Anglish? Colonisers who believe their way of doing everything is the only and right way. Just like all other colonisers… ever. 

The book starts simply, but quickly things turn into what could be a deadly confrontation, if the Anglish are not appeased. The main issue circles around dragons being available to and raised for Anglish families, and no one else. Not even wild dragons may exist unless they can be tamed and used. The Anglish are callous and strict with dragons and who can have access to them. Additionally, the kind of dragon Anequs finds is supposedly extinct. Which means there is an uproar when such a dragon is discovered already bonded with THIS teen girl.

Decisions have to be hastily made, and in the end Anequs and her dragon are sent to an Anglish boarding school, so she can learn how to shape her dragon’s breath.

Ta da!!!! It really is cleverly done and written.

If you have ever been a minority within a privileged majority, this book will be speaking truths which will make you want to jump up and down like a lunatic. On the flip side, if you have always been part of the majority, this is the book that will teach you truths you need to learn and embrace to be the best human being you can be on this earth.

I have mentioned before that I use a wheelchair, and that I am black and female. Which translates to me being a minority of a sort, pretty much everywhere. Probably because of this, Anequs and her strength, her fearlessness in standing up and speaking unashamedly, shattered parts of my past wide open. It felt as though these words, these speeches, held mirrors up to incidents I had lived through and showed me what I had missed before. The unfair expectations, my need to prove that I belonged, and that I was good enough, along with the subtle digs and snide remarks that fueled me forward. 

The author does not ease readers into these tough situations. She, like Anequs, goes assuredly and boldly into the difficulties and the mess. What she also does is share contrasting views of the same situation, giving us a variety of perspectives, which remind readers there is never one way to view or experience a single situation. She also does this while heavily emphasizing the power of compassion and self belief. 

We need books like this one. They reshape what a hero looks like, who really is the villain of a story, and remind us that truth takes on various shapes depending on who is doing the telling.

Let me be frank, the book invokes these deep thought processes, butttttt it is also a story of a teen girl going away to dragon school with a baby dragon and all the chaos that must entail. She is learning new subjects, teaching her dragon, and navigating a whole new world of institutionalised schooling in an unknown space where class and money rule society with a tight fist.

This is enthralling reading! People around her kept trying to mold her into who they want and expect her to be, and she was POWERFUL with her NO.

I picked the book up and did not put it down until I finished. The book ravished me. No other way to describe how I felt after. It was feisty, smart, unpredictable, and absorbing in a way I know I will never forget.

This author is now one whose work I will follow closely, because she has without a doubt fully captured my attention.

To Shape a Dragon’s Breath, the First Book of Nampeshiweisit, is for me, a must read.

For everyone. Coloniser and the colonised alike.

When you read it, message me, I would love to chat about the endless nuance and the heart shaking details to be found within its pages.

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